“Irma Vep” on OCS: Olivier Assayas signs a series with a luxury cast and a breathtaking scenario

Those who are not cinephiles, or who are not passionate about behind the scenes at the making of a movie or series, can go their way. The others, on the other hand, will close their eyes and have fun surprises with the broadcast of the series “Irma Vep” from this Tuesday, June 7 on OCS.

Assuming they pass the barrage of fire from the first episode, which installs its heroine, Mira (Alicia Vikander), actress from superhero movies known in America, lands in Paris for the filming of a series directed by a famous French writer and director. with anxiety, René (Vincent Macaigne). After an hour, it’s not clear how Olivier Assayas, the filmmaker at the helm of this series commissioned by the American platform HBO, will manage to interest us in his eight-episode topic.

Unfounded concern: from the second part (we could only see the first four) everything becomes clear and makes sense. The recordings are set up, the intrigues multiply by following the privacy of the (many) main characters, and we start partying. It is that the unfortunate René, who is obviously already very excited, will have a lot to do with his small crowd of actors, technicians and financiers.

An almost perfect double of Assayas

Between a lead actress who is upset about a recent breakup, a costume designer (Jeanne Balibar) always ready to fight, a young first actor (Vincent Lacoste) full of himself who wants the script to be rewritten in honor of his character, or a producer (Alex Descas) who giggles over every budget overrun that is announced, there is a nervous breakdown in the air … Not to mention a haughty and demanding male lead (Hippolyte Girardot), or a supporting role of a famous foreign actor who has a problem with addiction … to crack!

We quickly discover to what extent “Irma Vep” is an amazing mise en abyme. It is adapted from the film of the same name, also directed by Assayas in 1996, with the great Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung, accompanying the filmmaker at the time, who told the story of the filming of a film adapted from “Vampires” by Louis Feuillade, a 7:20 work cult river from 1916.

What rolls before our eyes, therefore, is – hold on tight – a series about footage of a series, adapted from a film, which itself told the footage of a film, adapted from another film. Can not follow? Absolutely not, as Olivier Assaya’s seemingly deep in thought about his profession and past has malicious pleasure in filling this “Irma Vep” with references – not surprisingly with a title that is the anagram of the word “vampire” and when f .ex. we know that the term “vamp”, which denotes a femme fatale, would derive from the appearance of the actress Musidora in “les Vampires”.

These many winks send the Assayas them first against him. René, brilliantly portrayed by Vincent Macaigne, who takes up certain character traits of the filmmaker, turns out to be an almost perfect double man of the Assayas, flipped out, both grumpy and happy, master of the delicate art of composing with actors and complicated technicians, as he always manages to convince.

The series multiplies the excerpts from the 1996 film

But the impact of perspective on the director’s life and career does not stop there: at his shrink’s home, René evokes in a trembling voice his former relationship with this Chinese actress who influenced him so much, and the series multiplies excerpts from the 1996 film, where we see Maggie Cheung, dressed in a cat costume – as Musidora in “The Vampires”, and as Mira / Alicia Vikander in the series – walk softly on the roofs of Paris. Exciting.

Better, practically at every sequence where the troupe begins to shoot a scene, Assayas integrates the original silent scene extracted from “Vampires” before continuing with the finished result of the same scene that he has just put in a box for the series . : epochs constantly reference references in “Irma Vep”.

And outside of the set, we follow the lives of each protagonist, who all turn out to be eventful, and we witness flirtation scenes, love stories that begin, end or relaunch, purely sexual exchanges, other totally platonic … In just four episodes, these heaps and crosses of pieces of life, references, disappointments or pieces of bravery turn out to be incredibly rich, sometimes destabilizing, but always surprising: we can not wait to see more …

Editor’s note:

Irma Vep », French-American series by Olivier Assayas (2022), starring Alicia Vikander, Vincent Macaigne, Vincent Lacoste, Jeanne Balibar, Nora Hamzawi, Hippolyte Girardot, Alex Descas … 8 episodes in about 58 minutes. From June 7 at OCS.

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