IIn the summer of 1996, director Olivier Assayas made a film about a French filmmaker who wants to make a remake of Louis Vuelled’s classic thriller series of 1915, The Vampires. “Irma Vibe” was his commentary on cinema and his own work, “Eight and a Half”, “The Player”, “American Night”. Assayas began an affair with actress Maggie Cheung, who was brought by the fictional director – portrayed by Jean-Pierre Laude, the icon of Nouvelle Vague – from Hong Kong to Paris to play spy Irma Fabe; Later she became his wife for a short time.
Now, Olivier Assayas has re-produced Irma Vep for HBO in the form of an eight-part series. Is it possible to push the mirror battle between film and life even further? You can, and the form of a chain of streaming services and payment channels is the perfect tool for this, as “Irma Vep” proves. His alter ego, again called René Vidal, is now represented by favorite Asayas actor Vincent McCain, still reeling from his failed marriage to a Hong Kong movie star he fell in love with on the set of a former vampire remake. Irma’s Vape is back in production chaos, crises, nervous breakdowns, love wars between the two actors, and the intervention of an alternate director. This sounds like a self-centered, autistic kind. But Irma Vape, a remake, is anything but.
Because the constellation has shifted in a meaningful way. The story begins with the appointment of a Hollywood star to give the production a chance in the global television market. When Mira Harberg (Alicia Vikander) arrives in Paris, she becomes the focus of a cinematic family constellation in which everyone shares their needs. Vidal needs it for his grief and the resumption of his career. Fashion designer Zoe (Jane Ballbar) is searching for something in her heart, so Regina’s rival becomes Mira’s assistant. And drug-addicted German actor Gottfried (Lars Edinger) explores the boundaries between art and life with Mira on set, which has earned him the envy of fellow Frenchman Robert (Hippolyte Girardot) and his manager, and allegations of abuse by two MeToo activists.
The balance sheet of the visual broker at the time
Additionally, Mira (an anagram for her character) has the ghosts of her life breathing in her neck: an agent wants to bring her back to Hollywood sooner rather than later for the next big project; An ex-boyfriend is also in France for filming and tries to use this coincidence to revive the relationship; And an ex-girlfriend (Adria Arjona) tortures her in such a lewd way that you can’t get enough of a duel between the two.
They’re the components of the TV series, and Irma Vape would surely have been one if Assayas hadn’t had something completely different in his stuff. He really wanted to evaluate the visual medium of his day, not only for cinema in its economic decline, but also for the hybrid forms and pseudo-epic that flourished on some streaming platforms. That’s why he desperately coquettishes and nods to Feuillade when he lets Rene Vidal tell his psychotherapist that “Irma Vep” isn’t a TV series at all, but an eight-part movie. In the case of Foillad, whose ten-part film “Vampires” was shown in Parisian cinemas, this was true. Here is an illusion. “Irma Vape” is so funny because the situation Assayas describes actually makes you cry. Actually – but not here. In the scenes that Vidal shot on the set of Irma Vape (until a Hollywood professional takes his place), old cinema rekindles its love of history and its momentary decor: glamorous interiors, costumes and sets, train and car rides, all beyond a bygone era. The sequences in which the memoirs of Feuillade’s lead actress, Musidora, are illustrated are even more beautiful: here the remake actors slip into the roles of the original cast, and the story finally turns into a hall of mirrors.
The series’ marvel for Irma Vep is that Assayas balances this complex tribute with the candy-colored hype that unleashes around it for eight episodes. Sometimes the two spheres overlap, for example when Edinger Gottfried, who is in the hospital after a failed sex game, escapes out the window in a classic slapstick fashion. Only in the last episodes does the balance begin to fall apart, and this is about a movie trick invented in France but perfected in Hollywood. Because Mira, whose suit that is part of her role has become her second skin, can now walk through walls and chase her former lovers into their hotel rooms. You marvel at the effect for a moment, then realize that it destroys the delicate beauty of imagination where digital magic has no place.
The industry has taken over the cinema, Gottfried said at the closing ceremony after his last day of filming, now everything belongs to platforms and companies. This may be true, but “Irma Vep” shows how to use the leeway that is still in this system. Streaming services and push channels will change the texture of storytelling in photos. But cinema always shines through.
Irma Vape It airs Fridays at 8:15 p.m. on Sky Atlantic.