HBO’s sly new series skewers the film industry : NPR

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In the miniseries Irma Vep, Alicia Vikander plays an actress who travels to Paris to star in a time period recreation of The Vampires.

Carole Bethuel/HBO


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Carole Bethuel/HBO


In the miniseries Irma Vep, Alicia Vikander performs an actress who travels to Paris to star in a period recreation of The Vampires.

Carole Bethuel/HBO

The new HBO miniseries Irma Vep is fascinating and uncommon, but so is its lineage. It all begun with a French silent motion picture serial identified as The Vampires, produced in 1916. That serial was about an corporation of criminals who terrorized Paris and identified as by themselves the Vampires.

A single of their leaders and inspirations was a girl named Irma Vep, who was evil and seductive, and typically wore a variety-fitting catsuit. Just after extra than a century, I do not feel I have to have to difficulty a spoiler inform … but the letters in “Irma Vep,” when rearranged, spell out the word “vampire.”

In 1996, French director Olivier Assayas saluted this serial by generating a movie referred to as Irma Vep, about the earning of a new motion picture edition of The Vampires. His movie-inside-a-film starred Hong Kong movie star Maggie Cheung as herself, coming to Paris to star as Irma Vep. It was part comedy, part satire of the movie business — and experienced a whole lot to say about both the effects of cinema and the conflicts concerning creativeness and commerce.

The level of creative imagination in the 1996 Irma Vep motion picture was in itself stunning. So why would that film’s creator and director, more than 25 yrs afterwards, feel the need to have to revisit his individual story? Dependent on the to start with four episodes of HBO’s Irma Vep offered for preview, the response is crystal clear: The film field has improved radically in the interim — but the sorts of men and women producing all those movies have not. And a Tv miniseries, with far more time to pursue subplots and enrich figures, will make this new Irma Vep even far better than the first.

Alicia Vikander, an Oscar winner for The Danish Lady and the star of Ex Machina, plays Mira, the actress imported to Paris to star in this new period of time recreation of The Vampires. Vincent Macaigne performs her director, René, whom she isn’t going to meet till she visits the established on her initially day.

The HBO miniseries, like the Irma Vep movie, tracks the problems concerned in mounting a new variation of The Vampires. After once again, as in the film, excerpts from the classic serial are shown together with new footage — but this time, the recreations are more quite a few and more bold, and additional beautifully filmed.

It all looks lavish, and pretty. When Mira dons her catsuit, she moves and acts like a female possessed – which turns out to be aspect of the story. Also expanded for this miniseries are the several subplots: actors who want meatier roles, producers with other motives or deals in engage in, and a Hollywood agent, played by Carrie Brownstein, who’s pushing Mira to star in a new superhero film, as a female Silver Surfer.

It is really typically very funny, but in some way it all would seem believable. So do all the passionate conflicts connecting the on-digital camera stars and their supporting assistants and crew associates. It is really like a show-enterprise version of Downton Abbey, with the upstairs and downstairs people continually shifting electrical power roles.

Some scenes are playful and hot. Some others are flat-out funny, like when the director René insists his eight-part remake of The Vampires is a movie reduce into minor bits – not a Television set sequence. There’s incredibly modern-day communicate about world box-workplace blockbusters and intimacy coordinators — but all of it is offered not only with wit, but with authentic affection. Olivier Assayas was a French movie critic before he grew to become a filmmaker, and it truly is obvious he loves what he is doing. With this new Irma Vep sequence, I appreciate what he is accomplishing, also.

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