You’d think it’d be near impossible for Olivier Assayas to add any more meta-textual layers to his 1996 masterpiece, “Irma Vep,” which followed a fictional film crew in their attempts to remake the (real) 1916 movie serial “Les Vampires” by Louis Feuillade. Assayas’ solution? To remake his own remake, but this time as a limited series.
Instead of Maggie Cheung (who played herself in the ‘96 movie), the series sees Alicia Vikander as Mira, an American star dissatisfied with her career and eager for a new (non-English language) challenge. And her non-existent French is not the only thing to carry over from the movie: in the course of filming, she contends with besotted colleagues (Jeanne Balibar), on-set divas (Vincent Lacoste), and a far-from-stable director (Vincent Macaigne) struggling to keep the whole thing together. Jerrod Carmichael, Carrie Brownstein, Fala Chen, Lars Eidinger, Hippolyte Girardot, and Alex Descas star in supporting roles, and there is even a small part for Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”), who played the lead in Assayas’ 2016 film, “Personal Shopper.”
The HBO series, which is co-produced by A24 (“Ladybird,” “Hereditary,” and a whole lot more), features music by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Dean & Britta. Daniel Delume (“The Artist,” “Maniac”), Ashley Levinson (“The Green Knight”), Kevin Turen (“All is Lost”), and Sam Levinson (“Euphoria,” “Malcolm and Marie”) are among the series’ executive producers.
After the recent debut of the series at Cannes, Playlist editor-in-chief Rodrigo Perez praised the meta nature of the series and Assayas’ deepening relationship with the “Irma Vep” lore: “In many ways, ‘Irma Vep’ is Assayas’ exploration of his neurotic relationship to filmmaking and his own work, past, and more. But as much as ‘Irma Vep’ veers into psychotherapy in this regard — relitigating ancient personal histories and doing so very super-meta-y and self-reflexively — it’s self-aware, playful, intellectually curious, and at times, very cleverly amusing.”
“Irma Vep” hits HBO on June 6. Watch the new trailer below: