Ode to Irma
TV · How a story doesn't have to be perfect. A remake (of a remake) of a beloved vampire series from 1915.
This is a rumination! Creative inspo, non-sequiturs, sidebars. Opt-out if you prefer not to receive ‘em.
Work has been crazier than usual and I am fried, y’all.
There’s an Irma Vep remake on HBO,
and I’ve been watching it to unstick my brain. I’m a fan of the original 1915 silent crime serial by Louis Feuillade and the 1996 remake with Maggie Cheung. Gotta round out the experience, right?
The animated intro sequence, first of all, is 😍 and I’m very into the title track.
There’s a lot that’s irritating about the HBO remake—clichéd relationship with the ex-assistant, hokey visual effects in later episodes, stilted dream sequence with a Maggie Cheung stand-in... The potential I felt for it eventually fizzled.
Still, it gave me things.
Mira’s sinuous transformations into Irma Vep felt surprisingly nuanced in the first few episodes. Quiet, special.
There were delicious periods of fugue.
Vikander, who plays Mira/Irma Vep, shone in moments where it was just her, silence, and the camera. In a dance rehearsal scene, she improvised gestures; suddenly bared teeth. There may have been fangs. I got chills.
From left, Musidora (1915), Maggie Cheung (1996), Alicia Vikander (2022):
Set against electric sky, Irma Vep has become a velvet shadow in Alexander McQueen. She capers over Paris rooftops; improbably, playfully, wistfully.
The remake was ultimately disappointing. But the good moments had something magical about them; they got me thinking about what makes us love a story.
And despite everything, Louis Feuillade’s original Les Vampires remains! I’m reminded how much affection I still have for it, and marvel too at its enduring allure. It’s on Criterion as well as Youtube.
Storytelling is about suspension of disbelief. When it floats, flaws recede like sounds going under water, beauty coming forward like things you want to eat.
I love old films, arthouse flicks, classics both black/white and cult. And I appreciated this homage to cinema and storytelling, however imperfect.
It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Mostly agree. First episodes were something special but the show lost its way a little. I really enjoyed Alicia Vikander though.
The original poster is soooo beautiful. There's just something special about that style. Thanks for sharing.