‘Irma Vep’ Miniseries Episode 8 Recap: The Terrible Wedding


Irma Vep

The Terrible Marriage

Season 1

Episode 8

Editor’s Note

4 stars

Photo: Carole Bethuel/HBO

The key scene of “The Terrible Marriage,” the feather-light final episode of Irma Vep, occurs between René and his therapist, who discuss how he feels at the end of this tumultuous shoot. When they met closer to the start of filming, René was much more anxious, questioning his own motives for wanting to revisit the material he had turned into film – and a failed marriage – before and not necessarily proposing lofty artistic reasons for making it a mini-series. But now that it’s over, he seems unusually optimistic about the process, referring to the films as having a life of their own, a “dark magic”. “You conjure them, they wake you up and they leave you hanging,” he says wistfully.

When his therapist suggests that the films take on a separate life once they’re done, Rene pushes it away. “Their lives are often extremely boring.” Given the autobiographical orientation of Irma Vep, it’s easy to imagine that Olivier Assayas agrees with those sentiments and perhaps thinks that an eight-episode series intended to sit around a streaming platform like HBO Max is the most possibly boring. The process itself, this episode suggests, is what gets the artists involved to the places they want to go. The actual art making ends up making a lot more sense than any other afterlife it has. For filmmakers, it’s usually about anticipating the next thing.

One of the most striking aspects of the finale – and perhaps, I imagine, the most frustrating for some – is that he’s not very interested in tidying up the damage he creates. There’s a whole subplot about Mira going to London for a super-secret morning meeting with a director and telling Zoe about it, which sets off the inevitable conflict when Mira, for example, can’t be found on the set or when others find out who she is meeting. But nothing helps, even if René’s “spies” have spoken to him about it. Regina’s feelings for Mira, which were in question for much of the series, are not only ignored, but the two never cross paths in the entire episode. There is no follow-up with Laurie or Herman, who make no appearances, despite Mira’s lingering feelings for Laurie and Herman’s stint as series director ending without a glance. That’s not how dramas are supposed to work.

But maybe that’s how a set works. Gottfried may have walked away with a garden party and a loud speech, but everyone seems to evaporate, often without notice. Poor Gregory, the producer, ends up waiting in Mira’s hotel lobby with flowers, unaware that she had left the day before. When Gautier Parcheminerie learns that Mira hasn’t shown up for his shoot for Dreamscape, he takes the news surprisingly well: they can’t plead because prosecuting a star of his caliber would be a bad image for the company, and so they ‘ All you have to do is turn the page. When Cynthia Keng asks Rene if she can get out of a crowded stage so she can leave a day early, you’d expect him to explode in rage, but he basically agrees with the idea. She then comes out and nails the choreography on her last take.

The effect Assayas is looking for here seems closer to the eerie ghostly qualities of his 2016 film. personal customer than the original Irma Vep, which is why there’s so much talk of “spirits” on set and more of an interest in exiting the series with elegance rather than pomp. In personal customer, Kristen Stewart plays the client of a model concerned about the death of her twin brother from a genetic anomaly a few months earlier. The film is partly about the effort to contact him through a medium, and those jarring spectral moments seem to fuel Irma Vepalso, which asked us to accept the presence of ghosts and the metaphysics of Mira herself slipping through walls and listening to intimate conversations.

“The Terrible Marriage” brings Stewart back for a long appearance as the girlfriend of Eamonn, a pop singer who has reached that Taylor Swift stage where she performs to delighted audiences of 11 while perhaps wishing she could reach their parents. Again, we might expect fireworks after Eamonn was asked about Mira because they had that one night stand together, but Assayas avoids that conflict as well and finds them reconfirming their love for each other – and their desire to try for a baby again. Mira looks mortified to witness their reunion, but she isn’t devastated. Laurie was the biggest and most recent heartbreak for her, and she seems to be getting over that as well.

Finally, the shot The vampires gave Mira exactly what she wanted, which contrasts with the chaos that permanently engulfs Maggie Cheung in the original film. “I wouldn’t have been ready for that,” Mira says to Rene in their final scene together, referencing this upcoming project with a major director (which sounds very Terrence Malick-esque in his solitude). She wanted to escape the noise and gossip of Hollywood, sort through her emotions after a bad breakup, and immerse herself in a role that could really take her away from herself. The same power that Irma Vep had over Maggie Cheung when she put on the jumpsuit transferred to Mira, and she could become a character in a way that even the most committed method actors couldn’t.

East by René Vidal The vampires going to be a good eight-hour limited series? At first glance, maybe not. Perhaps film students who love Mira but turn their backs on Vidal’s recent work — “I’d rather see Mira in a catsuit than all of René Vidal’s work” — might have the right idea. But Irma Vep is a window into how people who might make a series like The vampires (or the series Irma Vep) think about what they get out of the manufacturing experience. For them, it won’t have the same meaning as for those who watch it on their digital media players. They get what they need out of it and move on to the next one.

• I wish there was more Carrie Brownstein as Zelda, whose tartness as Mira’s agent gave the show a lot of comedic punch. She has a deadpan natural candor that suits the role.

“The shows, they have this weird vibe. Half the audience wants to be there, and they’re screaming like I’m a K-Pop star. I don’t think they can hear the music, they’re so loud. The other half are their parents or, even worse, their poor grandparents who would probably rather die than listen to my music. It seems like all teen pop idols end up feeling that way, that’s how you get movies like spring breakers.

• “No real art comes from trust. You should be grateful for the doubts. Mira’s words to Rene sound genuine, not just an actress trying to reassure her neurotic director. One thing that bothers her about Herman – what makes him a hack – is that he never seems to have a moment of self-doubt. This leads to superficial work.

• Regina’s new project actually looks like an interesting movie. And his attitude to working without a budget is refreshing. (“It’s fine with me, and that’s the way to do it.”)


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