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Screener Squad: Irma Vep

Irma Vep Series Review


In 1996, writer director Olivier Assayas made Irma Vep, a film about the (fictional) feature film remake of the (real) seven hour, 1915 silent serial, Les Vampires. Over 25 years later, Assayas has turned his previous film into a ten part HBO miniseries. In the original, actress Maggie Cheung played herself, cast in the lead role of Irma Vep, a high ranking member of a nefarious criminal organization known as Les Vampires. The longer she plays the role, the more Cheung finds herself subsumed by the character of Irma Vep. Meanwhile, she has to deal with the unwanted affections of the lesbian costume designer, a director who is having a nervous breakdown, a runaway production, and characters who love debating the nature of cinema, and the state of the film industry. This latest iteration builds on the original premise, but the expanded run time means Assayas can add more characters and subplots, and more scenes of the film within the film, including recreations of the making of the original 1915 film. He also manages to exponentially complicate his leading lady’s love life. Seriously, even we couldn’t keep track of all her previous lovers. In addition, Assayas has updated the dialogue to include references to contemporary cinema: the rise of superhero blockbusters, the way streaming services reduce art to content delivered by algorithms, the #metoo movement, and the blurred lines between TV and film, fact and fiction, and art and reality, itself. This time, Alicia Vikander plays the actress (the fictional Mira Harberg) cast in the title role in the film within the film which is itself a remake of the 1996 Irma Vep, only this time it’s from director Rene Vidal (Vincent Macaigne), an obvious stand-in for Assayas himself who is still trying to come to terms with the fallout of his (real life) divorce from Maggie Cheung, the actress he cast in the original remake, who appears in archival footage, but in modern scenes is played by a different actress altogether. Yeah, it’s a lot, even without the “I’m a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude” shenanigans. But was it too much for our reviewers Bradley, Frank, Sarah Jane, and Marco? This is a conversation best had in a Parisian café while drinking lots of wine and smoking Gauloise cigarettes, but since we couldn’t afford a trip to France, we did the next best thing and recorded a podcast for you to listen to, instead.


DIRECTED BY: Olivier Assayas

STARRING: Alicia Vikander, Vincent Macaigne, Adria Arjona, Byron Bowers, Jeanne Balibar, Vincent Lacoste, Nora Hamzawi, Hippolyte Girardot, Devon Ross, Alex Descas, Antoine Reinartz, Carrie Brownstein, Lars Eidinger, Tom Sturridge, Fala Chen, Pascal Greggory, Dominique Reymond, Sigrid Bouaziz, Vivian Wu, Lou Lampros




Marco Noyola (Digital Noise, Highly Suspect Reviews, Screener Squad, Audio Editor)

By day, Marco is a mild-mannered office worker, but by night he is a mild-mannered movie watcher. He does other mild-mannered stuff too.

“You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody!”




Bradly Martin (Screener Squad, Eye on the Prize, Breakfast Pub)

Bradly Martin was born in the united states and grew up on a healthy diet of sports, films, and books. A rather shy lad who kept to himself, Bradly soon discovered the best way to know a person was to know what people liked. Throughout the years Bradly became a fan of many things and a fanatic of none. From Doctor Dre, to Doctor Strange and the who’s who of Whos. From Playstation to the Dreamcast and Marvel to DC. From LeBron James to James Bond and Lord of the Rings to Lord Palmerston (or Pitt the Elder if you agree with Wade Boggs) and is a huge fan of dad jokes and randomly obscure Simpsons references. Armed with a vast knowledge of comics, films, and pop culture. Bradly traveled the world making friends and sharing takes. As a young man Bradly married the love of his life young and grew older every year with each new child brought into the brood. If trends continue, Scientists predict that .2% of Canada (where Bradly and family reside) will be populated by Bradly’s children by the year 2029. You can hear him leading and listening to his favorite critics on the Screener Squad and Eye on the prize and maybe even provide some comments of his own.



Frank Calvillo (Highly Suspect Reviews, Screener Squad)

Born and raised in South Texas, Frank currently lives in Austin and has been in love with movies ever since his father showed him some Three Stooges shorts when he was five years old. Today he loves all kinds of film, regardless of era, country, budget or genre. He believes every film has an audience and is at least one person’s favorite movie. After writing for Sight & Sound and Slackerwood, he now writes for Cinapse where his increasingly random taste in all flavors of cinema (from Rashomon to Mars Attacks!) continues to thrive. His ultimate goal is to write a script for his boyhood crush, Michelle Pfeiffer.



Sarah Jane (Highly Suspect Reviews, Screener Squad)

Sarah Jane was born and raised in Southern California but currently calls Austin, TX her home. She’s seen over 5,700 movies so far with zero plans on stopping. She has a penchant for all things exploitation, and she loves Godzilla with all her heart. Her favorite films are Deep Red, Le Samourai, and Miller’s Crossing. When she isn’t watching movies, she’s busy herding her four cats, her husband, and her 11-year-old kiddo. She’s been a contributor to TalkFilmSociety, Daily Grindhouse, FThisMovie!, Looper, and the Austin Chronicle. You can find her on Twitter and Letterboxd at @fookthis.



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