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Miniseries “Irma Vep” is a humorous behind-the-scenes portrait of show business

Irma Vep Review Protopian Magazine

Can a filmmaker make a remake of his own work? As strange as this may sound, the answer is a resounding YES. This was often the case in the first half of the silent film era, with short films reigning in movie theater schedules and directors, who learned the craft as they created it, making one film a week and without a second thought to recycle ideas.

A more concrete example: Alfred Hitchcock filmed The Man Who Knew Too Much twice: in England in 1934 and in Hollywood in 1956, with minor modifications. With the emergence and popularization of other audiovisual languages, other opportunities for remakes arose, like this one in front of us: Irma Vep, an HBO series created by Olivier Assayas that is the remake of a 1996 film by the same director.

Mira Harberg (Alicia Vikander) is a successful actress who has just starred in a superhero movie. Her next project has another scale: it is a series that is a remake of “The Vampires”, a French series made in 1915, to be filmed in Paris by filmmaker René Vidal (Vincent Macaigne). Arriving in Paris, Mira is reunited with the director of her previous film, Herman (Byron Bowers) and his wife, Laurie (Adria Arjona), Mira’s former assistant and ex-girlfriend. She also meets her ex-boyfriend Eammon (Tom Sturridge), who seems to have gotten over her, although he still likes to vent to her.

Edmond (Vincent Lacoste) plays Philippe Guérande, the show’s good guy, in “Os Vampires”. Dissatisfied with reshooting everything as it was filmed in the last century, he makes suggestions for changes to Rene, including adding a sex scene.

In search of motivation for the character, he will do everything, including attacking the director. And Edmond won’t be the only crew member causing problems for those working behind the camera: German actor Gottfried von Schack (Lars Eidinger) will make everyone’s lives hell with his erratic behavior.

alicivikander irma vep

With scenes from the Louis Feuillade show being shown and then recreated by the show’s cast within the show, we have a curious case of “before and after” that draws in front of us. With ten episodes, the series stands out in the filmography of Feuillade, who has made more than 700 films, most of them short. It is one of the rare films that have survived the test of time in its form – after all, it is estimated that between 75 and 90% of silent films are lost – and content – ​​showing today the same narrative freshness as over 100 years ago

From the fifth episode onwards, scenes that would be backstage reconstructions of the 1915 series also begin to pop up. In these scenes, Alicia Vikander plays Musidora and Louis Feuillade is played by Vincent Macaigne, alternating between French and English with a French accent. The images are smoothed, as if covered in talcum powder or filmed through a silk fabric, a technique that was used for smoothing images in silent cinema.

Sometimes we wonder if René Vidal is not an alter-ego of Olivier Assayas, after all, René has already made a remake of “The Vampires” as a movie and now, he says, he is expanding the idea to a series – which is nothing beyond what Assayas is doing. René feels pressured to be reshooting a masterpiece, even though he has an almost spiritual connection with the cinema and with the character, a characteristic he perhaps shares with Assayas.

alicia vikander irma vep

The legacy of Irma Vep

Irma Vep, in the original series, was played by Musidora, who became an icon thanks to the role. In the first episode of the series, we are told that Musidora was much more than a passive muse: actress, director, critic, she dedicated her life to cinema, first acting in front of cameras and, with the end of the silent era, writing about films and sharing your memories. Much more than a fashion icon or the supposed first femme fatale, Musidora is a pioneer and an inspiration.

And, in fact, the series “The Vampires” served as an inspiration for many filmmakers and even entire genres within cinema owe something to Feuillade’s great work. The list of those inspired, directly or indirectly by “The Vampires”, ranges from Fritz Lang to Alain Resnais, passing by the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock.

In 1984, the series was one of the influences for Charles Ludlam to write the satirical three-act play “The Mystery of Irma Vep”. Translated into Portuguese as “O Mistério de Irma Vap” – to keep the anagram “Irma Vap” and “Vampira” – the play was a tremendous success, running between 1986 and 2013 with the same actors, Marco Nanini and Ney Latorraca , a feat that secured a place in the Guinness Book. In 2006, a film was made based on the play, “Irma Vap – O Retorno”.

In the 1996 film, René Vidal is played by French cinema legend Jean-Pierre Léaud, accustomed to being his director’s alter-ego on screens since his formative times with Truffaut. Irma Vep is played by an actress

z Chinese, Maggie (Maggie Cheung). The genesis of almost everything in the miniseries is in the film, except for Gottfried. With eight hours of duration, instead of 98 minutes, the miniseries manages to better develop the characters and situations proposed in the film.

alicivikander irma vep

Disappointments and representations in Irma Vep

Many viewers became interested in the show because of the relationship between Mira and Laurie, which was explored a lot in the trailers, and later became disappointed because the relationship is not the focus of the miniseries. This is not a case of queerbaiting – when a character is announced as LGBTQIA+ or when a relationship between people of the same gender is suggested but this promise / suggestion ends up not being fulfilled – but a case of unfulfilled expectations. Even so, there is no shortage of flirty scenes in Irma Vep.

Anyone who works in the entertainment industry and has watched Irma Vep said the behind-the-scenes portrayal of a series is perfect. Chaos is a constant element in the production – chaos exacerbated and even sought after by Gottfried – and the players of this dream game that is show business range from skeptics to dreamers – such as Mira and René, and probably Assayas himself, who was critical of cinema before becoming a filmmaker.

The series is also very humorous, including some moments for laughs. The troubles that René goes through, especially those caused by Gottfried, are the source of most of the laughter. Another highlight of the series is the opening, made in an animation that emulates the designs of movie posters from the 1910s.

Part of the opening of “Irma Vep”

Irma Vep ProtopianNet

1915 poster

Irma Vep Protopian Net

If you don’t mind getting spoilers for a work that debuted over 100 years ago, this series is for you. In the fourth episode, a sponsor defines the series-within-a-series as “a niche but prestigious product”. The same can be said about several HBO productions, such as Irma Vep herself.

Starting from an average film of his, Assayas managed to make an excellent series, which makes us happy that he had this opportunity to do a remake of his own work – perhaps an opportunity that should be extended to other directors.

Irma Veep

Irma Veep
10 10 0 1
Rating: Epic - 10 out of 10 stars
Rating: Epic - 10 out of 10 stars
Total Score iEpic
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