Olivier Assayas tries the serial format for the first time by adapting Irma Vep, a film he directed more than two decades ago. Also starring Oscar winner Alicia Vikander, the series features a lovely cast of French actors and actresses who enjoy caricaturing the tragicomic world of the 7th art.
Mira (Alicia Vikander) arrives in Paris to film in a series starring the fickle René Vidal (Vincent Macaigne). As a leading Hollywood actress, more used to blockbusters and presidential suites, Mira is fed up with the contradictory roles her agent is offering her. The role of Irma Vep is contemporary: the young woman, disillusioned after a romantic breakup, needs a good boost in her career and private life.
A series within a series after being a movie within a movie, the mise en abyme suggested by Olivier Assayas is disturbing. We rewind to see more clearly. Irma Vep is first and foremost a 1996 film by the French filmmaker. The behind-the-scenes footage told of the remake of a silent film by Louis Feuillade from 1915, “Les Vampires”, worn by and interpreted by a Chinese actress newly arrived from Hong Kong Maggie Cheung.
“Irma Vep” in 2022 is a series in 8 chapters, a remastered version of the film of the same name, which this time is not followed by an Asian star but by an American who came straight from Los Angeles to play the vamp in a series directed by zu play a mentally unstable French filmmaker.
© Carole Bethuel/HBO
Written and directed by Assayas, the HBO/A24 co-production, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last May, plays with everything and everyone. The series satirizes the world of cinema, its worst flaws and the people who inhabit it, showing the vices and contradictions that run through the middle of the 7th art.
“Irma Vep” gives the French filmmaker the opportunity to deepen what he set out to do 26 years earlier…
A jaded star who benefits everyone, a borderline director, actor in search of popularity or addicted to crack, “Irma Vep” nails both the shattered star system and the cinema industry itself, its mutations and all the questions that put themselves in the pillory, always injecting enough humor so as not to flirt with an accusatory tone.
We remember thatOlivier Assayas knows how to do it. The director of “Sils Maria” (2014) and “Personal Shopper”, Director’s Prize at the Cannes Film Festival 2016, is credited for both the direction and the screenplay of all episodes. The series is immaculately executed and features original footage from Louis Feuillade Contemporary images reflect. A series, or rather a long film, “Irma Vep” gives the French filmmaker the opportunity to deepen what he set out to do 26 years earlier.
© Carole Bethuel/HBO
And of course there is Alicia Vikander to hold the pole. The Swedish actress, who won an Oscar in 2016 for her performance in Danish Girl, soberly embodies one Maggie Cheung and Musidora embodied before her. There’s also a French cast, without which the series would certainly have less flavor.
Vincent Lacoste, Nora Hamzawior Jeanne Balbar in furiously effective supporting roles to give the program a whimsical and humorous tone. At the top of the gondola we find Vincent Macaignehilarious, impersonating a director next to his heels, which mere presence is enough to amuse.
Available on HBO June 6 and OCS June 7, Irma Vep, remake of the film of the same name byOlivier Assayas, points in its main lines to the cinema. Both a critique and a tribute to the 7th art, the filmmaker’s series questions this industry through a variety of characters, each plagued by their demons and interpreted by a cast of sensational actors and actresses. Between drama and comedy, “Irma Vep” is this spring’s small serial pleasure.
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