Original plots, spinoffs, docudramas, or, increasingly, reboots and revivals make up the majority of programs. Finally, “Irma Vep” completes the list. To use an analogy, Olivier Assayas’ new HBO series with star Alicia Vikander is like a braid that weaves together the past and the present in unexpected ways. It has a long history, but we’ll jump ahead to 1996 to coincide with the release of the film of the same name.
Then, Assayas was a former critic who had made a handful of intimate art-house dramas. In the wake of “Irma Vep,” he gained worldwide recognition. No, I’m not saying this because it was a commercial success. While the film “didn’t do as well as expected,” the French writer and director acknowledged in a video interview from his Paris office last month. According to the critics, “it didn’t do all that well.”
Coolness, on the other hand, was in abundance in “Irma Vep.” In part, this was because of its meta-topical nature.
While filming a remake of Louis Feuillade’s 1915-16 French silent film serial “Les Vampires,” about a disguise-loving criminal named Irma Vep, the real-life Hong Kong action star Maggie Cheung, to whom Assayas would later be married for a short time, portrayed a version of herself.
To top it all off, director Olivier Assayas‘ finger-in-socket technique produced famous shots like Cheung nervously twitching in a black latex catsuit while Sonic Youth’s electricity rained down on the soundtrack. An A24 TV executive, Ravi Nandan, says that “I think it’s a movie that many people hold dear, especially because it’s about movies,” he said by phone from Los Angeles. That means that it was well-received by film professionals from both the independent and Hollywood sectors.
Director Olivier Assayas.
When it comes to movies, “it’s sort of like a touchstone in that Truffaut, ‘Day for Night’ kind of manner,” he said. To illustrate the nature of the project, director Olivier Assayas uses a literary analogy. The HBO series begins on Monday and is not a cut-and-paste sequel. A “thick novel” was the next step for “Irma Vep” after it was transformed from a poem, he explained.
If you’ve watched the movie, you’ll get more out of the show’s matryoshka doll structure, which is presently available on HBO Max and the Criterion Channel.) Vikander took on because he felt confident that this wasn’t a rerun. A video chat from London recalls Assayas saying, “It’s just the continuation of it — I’m not finished with it yet, which is why I’m interested in doing it,” according to the actress.
“I could see the ember of a flame burning within him,” I said. One of the reasons for their connection was the fact that he had to recast his 2016 film “Personal Shopper” since the original protagonist, Kristen Stewart, had difficulty with her schedule. But Assayas and Vikander kept in touch after Stewart managed to break free and make the movie she wanted.
Mira (Swedish actress), a Hollywood star who flies to Paris to film a remake of an old silent film serial about — well, you’ve heard this one before.
Assayas remarked of Vikander, “I had the sensation that she hadn’t unlocked her full potential.” The first thing I saw about her was that she’s humorous, sharp, and quick and that she has a deep appreciation for and knowledge of film. “I thought we could do something together,” I said.
The period drama “The Danish Girl” (2015), in which Vikander earned an Academy Award for her performance as a robot in the blockbuster “Ex Machina,” made her a household name, but she isn’t known for her comedic roles. As a result, part of the appeal of “Irma Vep” was its comedic quality. She laughed as she continued, “I was dying to do it.” In my private character, I think Olivier was aware of that.” He said, “Yeah, you need to express yourself more.” It’s only the beginning,” I believe.
Mira’s French Cast and Crew.
In the show, Mira’s French cast and crew, led by mercurial René Vidal (Vincent Macaigne), an obsessive, neurotic, and film-obsessed director who has already made a movie about Irma Vep (starring a Chinese actress named “Jade Lee” as a stand-in for Cheung), and is now back at it with a series, is the source for much of the show’s humor. Macaigne’s voice sounds a lot like Assayas’s, but the director insists that he’s a more kind person than René.
In a lighthearted tone, he quipped, “I don’t shout at them, you know.” As a director, “I don’t criticize my performers.” However, it is evident that the new show’s fabric is laced with similarities between art and life. In addition, as “Irma Vep” is iterated, the ripple effect of self-reference becomes more and more intricate. Irma Vep’s story begins in 1916 with Louis Feuillade and continues through cinema to the present, according to Assayas.
This is a rare opportunity to combine many timelines, which is something you don’t see very frequently, he said.
That includes my own work, how it has evolved over time, how I connect with myself now that I’m a quarter of a century older, and how my marriage to Maggie Cheung, the subject of the film, is also something that echoes very strongly and essentially in the series’ events. The modern cinema also has a conversation with silent film, which is fascinating.
When we first encounter Mira in Paris, viewers may assume she is a stand-in for Stewart, who has recently been rejected by her girlfriend and is shown in sunglasses and a floppy hat. Assayas is both soft pedals and does not reject the likeness. His response was, “There is some, but not much,” as he explained.
I wrote this with Alicia in mind, but I can’t help but think of Kristen Stewart when I think of an American movie star.” Even though I only know a few of them, one of them is a friend whom I cherish and appreciate. Since Kristen’s ghost appears in the film, there must be some traces of her.
Irma Vep’s New Series.
Vikander, on the other hand, was unable to completely identify with her role. “Mira’s enthusiasm for movies is one of the things that I can most identify with,” she remarked. Having a character who is so unlike me was a lot of fun, too. Irma Vep’s new series, on the other hand, isn’t just another homage to previous performers and films. Assayas continues to investigate what was at the heart of the 1996 film, despite its humorous approach and some extremely funny side plots (one of which involves the necessity to acquire crack cocaine for an addled actor).
According to the series’ creator, “The series is about the thin boundary between truth and fiction; it’s about how we all exist simultaneously in a material and an immaterial world.” It’s a hazardous game to play with your identity when you’re directing or acting because you’re both yourself and someone else at the same time, and you’re trying to get as much truth out of it as you can.
Irma Vep’s Catsuit.
Irma Vep’s catsuit, here depicted in a silky fabric closer to the serial’s rendition rather than latex, serves as a gateway for Mira between the real world and the domain of make-believe.
Cheung was dramatized in the same way as Mira and Irma are linked by the outfit. You may have noted that the anagram of their names is a reference to the source material.
To find that the catsuit’s magic had an effect on the series’ star was not a surprise. Swedish actress Alicia Vikander stated that she felt like a “ninja” due to the tightness of the dress, but that she was still visible. The whole time I was in this black contraption, I was completely absorbed and had a blast. The part’s physicality was apparent.
In her words: “It was one of those things that I had thought about a lot, but when I first tried on the costume,’ she just came.'”