Two episodes in, Olivier Assayas’s new, mind-bendingly metatextual HBO series, Irma Vep, has already proven to be catnip for cinephiles. An audacious expansion and reinvention of Assayas’s 1996 film of the same title—in which an aging French filmmaker attempts to remake Louis Feuillade’s classic silent serial, Les vampires, with Maggie Cheung as the criminal vamp Irma Vep—the eight-part series features a nearly dizzying mise-en-abyme structure. Here, a neurotic filmmaker (seemingly modeled on Assayas) recreates Feuillade’s serial for a contemporary, binge-TV audience. Alicia Vikander plays Mira Harberg, an American pop heroine who is cast as Irma Vep among a glossy, transnational crew of actors.

In the four episodes available to critics so far, Irma Vep engages with its multiple sources, its medium, and the lives of its creators in increasingly surprising and thought-provoking ways. On this week’s podcast, Film Comment editors Devika Girish and Clinton Krute invited critics Adam Nayman and Beatrice Loayza to dig into the series’ endless rabbit holes and riffs on the history of serials, cinema, and, err, “content.”

Links & Things

Irma Vep (1996) on the Criterion Channel

Irma Vep (2022) on HBO Max

Adam Nayman on Irma Vep (2022) in The Ringer

Lucy Sante on Les vampires and Louis Feuillade in The Criterion Collection

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