Irma Vep (2022)
Now, with the 1996 Irma Vep and Les Vampires in my skull, I was very excited to watch the new HBO series, Irma Vep, starring Alicia Vikander and directed by Olivier Assayas.
I love puzzles, especially crossword puzzles. Plays to me are puzzles, where you start with a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated things and then put them all together so that they make a sense—not necessarily sense, but a sense. That there's an internal logic where everything fits perfectly.
I'm not going to spend time here going into depth about storyline of the 2022 Irma Vep because ultimately it didn't help me all that much when thinking about the show that was forming in my head. I like Simon Johns' review of it in The New Guardian.
All I'll say is that Olivier Assayas made the 1996 film, which is about a director making a movie version of Les Vampires. Assayas fell in love with Maggie Cheung who played Irma Vep, then later got divorced. Then Assayas made a TV series called Irma Vep, which is about a film director who is making a remake of Les Vampires and is visited by his Asian ex-wife, who played Irma Vep in an earlier remake of Les Vampires that he directed.
It's a puzzle and I'm a hundred percent here for it.
What inspired me and fortified this crazy idea that I was having is that Assayas was using Les Vampires as a backdrop for something else. His two Irma Vep movies are not in any way homages to Louis Feuillade. If anything, they could be considered homages to the French actress Musidora, who played Irma Vep and created the first "vamp" on screen. (I also love trivia.)
Musidora is a riveting performer in the films, and was a firebrand in real life, going on to become one of the first woman film directors and producers. There's too much to go into here, but I highly recommend checking out her Wikipedia page and anything else you can find on her.
Although she doesn't appear until Episode Three of the series, her first scene is unforgettable, as she performs in The Vampires hideaway. Feuillade clearly was learning how much talent she had, for she becomes the star of the series from that point forward. Her budding naturalistic acting style operates in exciting counterpoint to the melodramatic performances of the men with whom she shares the screen. The freedom that she exhibits, however, while wearing a skintight catsuit is a sight to behold. It caused such a stir that I believe I remember reading somewhere that the production was shut down, until Musidora went in and lobbied the police commissioner to allow them to finish filming.
The Irma Vep series finished its season on July 25. I didn't do anything with these ideas for two months. I'm grateful that I had this time. Ideas like this—messy, unformulated germs that are barely clear enough to describe—need to just swim around my head.
I knew that the next step was that I needed get inside Les Vampires. I needed to be able to turn each of the episodes into parts. To deconstruct it, so I could then put it together again. I needed to be able to hold it in my hands.
So, at the end of September I bought 300 notecards.