In 1916 French director Louis Feuillade created a silent classic, The vampirescomposed of 10 serial installments.
In 1996 director Olivier Assayas based his feature film Irma Vep on a fictional remake of The vampireswith Maggie Cheung in the lead role.
Now in 2022 Assayas has an 8 part HBO miniseries Irma Vep even on a remake of The vampires as a series with Alicia Vikander as American actress Mira front and center.
Mira lands in Paris with her assistant Revina (Devon Ross) in tow and is drawn into the maelstrom of the production team and publicity machinations that come with being an A-list star.
There is an endless stream of appearances, programming, exchanges with journalists, photographers, fans and selfies, all within a day of landing. Everyone wants a piece of you, when all you really want is your hotel suite, and possibly a moment to focus on the role you’re about to take on.
But Mira wasn’t counting on her ex, Laurie (Adria Arjona), to also be in town and embark on a hetersexual relationship with Herman (Byron Bowers), one of Mira’s late directors.
His first encounter with the gifted The vampires director René (Vincent Macaigne) is strangely narrow-minded, generous, self-effacing, an exchange of ideas as two artists try to meet in the middle….
But René has his own challenges, including his medication for anger issues which proves to be a sticking point for the film’s insurers: his producer fears the film will be shut down altogether.
Sandwiched in the middle of it all is real 1916 footage of Feuillade’s silent classic and this is a startling collision of ideas and concepts, half of which is subtitled.
At its core is a seductive and hypnotic performance by Alicia Vikander, who sneaks through the scenes and borders on mumblecore but to great effect. There’s a memorable scene where she’s supercharged in a skintight catsuit for her character, lurking from a wardrobe try-on to a purse theft from the upstairs office-research, I guess? But Mira is also under the spell of her sexy ex, Laurie. No matter how A-list you are, you can still have vulnerabilities.
Vincent Macaigne is also endearing as the quirky, visionary, Euro-director who loathes mixing with people (go figure) and insists he’s not making a TV series but an 8-part film.
So what to make of all this? This is where things are open to wide interpretation…. vanity, power, culture clashes, art and life… there’s a lot to do.
But Assayas is in control of his canvas, and he engages us with an authentic essay on cinema’s sprawling, messy cacophony, with compelling characters driven by their own agendas.
Although this may involve a trade-off The vampires miniseries, is a triumph for Irma Vep.
Irma Vep airs Tuesdays on Binge / 8:30pm Wednesdays on FOX Showcase.