‘Irma Vep’ Review: Olivier Assayas Goes Full Meta On This Fantastic Miniseries About Love And Film

Irma Vep

In 1996 Olivier Assayas released Irma Vep. A film about the disaster that occurred during the remaking of a classic French film, Les Vampires, and how a foreign movie star and lead in the remake was seeing it all happening around her. The film was a clear statement on the state of French cinema, and cinema in general to be frank. The film made a splash in Cannes and while it never knew financial success, it is without a doubt one of those little gems that Assayas has hidden in his filmography.

Now in 2022, Assayas himself comes back with Irma Vep, but this time not in the shape of the film but in the form of a TV series, made for HBO Max with the support of A24. Assayas is basically remaking his own movie that is about a remake and this is where things get interesting, because the film industry has changed a lot since 1996, and yet, some things remain just the same. With this new version of Irma Vep, Assayas challenges the perception of what a remake should be, and the result is delightful.

Irma Vep is produced by HBO, and A24 and is created, written, and directed by Olivier Assayas. The series stars Alicia Vikander, Devon Ross, Adria Arjona, Vincent Macaigne, Fala Chen, Vincent Lacoste, and Lars Eidinger. The miniseries tells the story of Mira, a young Hollywood actress that is tired of receiving the same old roles over and over again. When she gets cast in the remake of a classic silent era French film, her mind begins to open to new possibilities in her craft as an actor.

Irma Vep

Assayas is not new when it comes to breaking the layers of reality and trying to mix both fiction and reality into one complete package. He did something similar with the first Irma Vep, of course, but also with his 2014 film, Clouds of Sils Maria, for which Kristen Stewart received the Cesar for Best Actress. That film about another actress who sees herself disappointed with the repetitive Hollywood roles also mixes what happens in the actor’s life with what is happening on the page as she reads her script.

The same happens in Irma Vep, the miniseries, Assayas fuses both realities and makes them indistinguishable from each other. It is quite trippy, but seeing how filmmakers talk about the craft of actually making a film is quite interesting. It is a perspective that is often hidden, something that should not be seen or thought about in order to maintain the sense of reality that the movie tries to portray. However, because of its premise, that is an element that needs to be prevalent on the show.

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Looking inside the film, right from inside the film, feels contradictory and that level of exposure certainly will turn some people off. We are not seeing actors playing actors, or directors, and such. I mean, we are, but not really because they are actually trying to portray what really is going on behind a shooting, especially one that goes out of control. There are so many little details, that seem insignificant but become great jokes, only for those that are already familiarized with the lingo. Irma Vep is a niche product, no doubt about it.

The film itself acknowledges that this is not something that will appeal to the masses. But it is an important piece of art because it plays into human emotions, success, failure, love, anger, and so many things at a level that, for example, superhero movies cannot. As they exist in another hyperreality that is similar but very different from ours. The miniseries comments on all these issues and the comments never seem to come from a place of judgment, they are just realities that today’s filmmakers must accept.

Assayas is at the peak of his visual language as a filmmaker, and the miniseries is beautiful to watch. The story takes place mostly in Paris, and it is just a wonderful way to look at the city. It is striking that two different products can film the city in such different ways. Emily In Paris comes into the conversation inside the show, and knowing these two are made in the same city is just mind-blowing. There might not be a lot of money here, but the miniseries feels important and something any cinephile must watch.

Irma Vep

Vikander is a great protagonist. She has that look that screams innocence and maturity at the same time. So when you see her as an already Hollywood veteran, it comes as natural as when she appears lost and does not know what to do with her life. Her character really goes through a huge landscape of emotions that makes the plot points feel way more relevant.

Devon Ross, also makes a striking debut as an actor. The model now turned actor plays Regina, the beautiful and mysterious assistant, and friend of Mira, and she expels a powerful presence each time she appears on-screen. Her role in the story only becomes apparent as the story progresses, but you can’t take your eyes off her every time she appears.

Vincent Macaigne, and Lars Eidinger also make a huge impact in the roles of Rene Vidal, the director of the remake inside the show. And Gottfried, a talented actor who sadly is addicted to crack, but also brings a big personality wherever he goes. They quickly become fan favorites, especially Gottfried, who doesn’t seem to have a filter when he takes and makes for some good old fashion levity.

Assayas also makes a lot of effort into selling both the miniseries and the remake that the filmmakers are making inside the show. We actually see scenes from the show, and they are tacky, and unfinished, but they also have a real voice, coming from a particular vision. It all culminates in what is a very experimental but entertaining narrative and cinematic exercise.

Irma Vep is one of the best shows of the year. It is entertaining, funny, sexy, and beautiful to look at. The miniseries really has a special vision behind it and just for that, it feels like something that needs to be watched. Not all people will be able to appreciate it, but those who do will love every single minute of it. It is without a doubt one of the best works coming from the French director.

SCORE: 10/10

  • Nelson loves all things related to storytelling. He has spent most of his life studying narrative, applied across all mediums; film, TV, books, and video games. Mulholland Drive is his favorite film.