Recap of episode 4 of the “Irma Vep” mini-series: the poisoner


Irma Vep

the poisoner

Season 1

Episode 4

Editor’s note

4 stars

Photo: Carole Bethuel/HBO

One of the main differences between Irma Vep the movie and Irma Vep the HBO limited series is the character of René Vidal – which is a little odd, since René is the only character besides costume designer Zoe, whose name is shared by the two projects. In the film, René is played by French New Wave legend Jean-Pierre Léaud, who makes his apathy as the film’s director in the film a commentary on France’s aging old guard and its ill-considered attempt to ward off the past to assert its own relevance. But in Irma Vep the series, René is a stand-in for Olivier Assayas, who may be beginning to doubt himself that René de Léaud now felt he was on the wrong side of middle age. In 1996, Assayas was the hottest filmmaker in the world, with a brilliant feature debut, 1994’s Cold water, which gave her the cachet of convincing one of the most glamorous stars in the world, Maggie Cheung, to play herself in her second film. And marry her after that!

It’s not like Assayas’ reputation has suffered in the least now that he’s over 25 years older. His former partner is Mia Hanson-Løve, a superb director in her own right, whose recent film Bergman Island, with Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth, offered his own meta commentary on their relationship. He gave roles to Kristen Stewart in Clouds of Sils Maria and personal customer who reinforced her reputation as a serious actress afterDusk trilogy. Perhaps his self-mockery towards Rene in this series is a case of false modesty, a clever gesture to the audience that he realizes how stupid it is for him to revisit Irma Vep in the form of a niche television show (or rather an eight-hour film divided into hour-long episodes). There’s definitely a levity to it Irma Vep this suggests that Assayas may not be taking it as seriously as he would with another project.

Yet this excellent episode, “The Poisoner”, delves into an essential question for any artist: “Why are we doing this?” In the money scene, Rene invites Mira to his apartment for an urgent morning meeting before her call time, suggesting that this temperamental director might be unhappy with her performance or gain important insight into her character that he must share with her. But that is not the purpose of this meeting. It’s much worse than that. When René opens the door in a bathrobe, it immediately evokes the horror of Harvey Weinstein’s “dates” with young actresses in his hotel room, but this is alarming for other reasons. Rene just can’t motivate himself to dress up. He had dreamed the previous night of Jade (sa Maggie Cheung) visiting his apartment like a ghost, reminiscing about their strange failed relationship. And he woke up wanting to do a second Irma Vep is a useless undertaking.

To her credit, Mira has none of it. She grapples with her own artistic and romantic uncertainties, but she’s level-headed enough to know the show must go on. While René worries about tackling the work of a director like Louis Feuillade, Mira brushes it off by saying (rightly) that the original The vampires is “not a masterpiece”, and Feuillade has nothing to do with greats like Carl Dreyer or Fritz Lang. When he continues, Mira shuts him down completely: he’s “self-indulgent”, and the first step to getting over it is to “stop whining”. But what he really tells her, beyond admitting her shortcomings, is that she is the only one capable of redeeming the project. “You can save him,” he said. And all she can do is shrug her shoulders and say, “Well, I have to. That’s all we have at the moment. At the very least, he should think about dressing up and finding his way around putting himself on the stage.

Besides, who can blame René for feeling so discouraged? A big reason why Irma Vep is in the works is the backing of Gaultier, who wants Mira to be the face of a new line of fragrances called Dreamscape. Gaultier’s chief visits the set as part of a tough push for Mira to sign the campaign, which will involve a photo shoot and multiple public appearances, though Mira and her agent Zelda read the set visit as a sign of despair. . While courting Mira, he also addresses harsh words to René: he is disappointed that an Asian actress he had promised to choose was not selected because this market is important. And he dismisses the whole enterprise as unimportant in itself. “I was told our viewers wouldn’t find it worthy of the name,” he says. It is obvious that the main reason why Gaultier supports a Irma Vep series is to cultivate the company’s relationship with Mira. No wonder René decides to put the fate on his shoulders.

As for Mira, she also feels dangerously adrift, though she mostly keeps it to herself. Putting on the catsuit and walking around the hotel is her personal desire for freedom and anonymity, to do the unexpected. Zelda continues to press her for a role in a Silver Surfer reboot that she’s repeatedly said she doesn’t want, and her signing with Gaultier appears to be a low-commitment concession to get rid of her own agent. On a personal level, she flirts with Zoe and returns to her hotel on a scooter, but does not follow through with the sexual encounter Zoe expects. She ends up saving this for Eamonn, who shows up in the middle of the night with the news that his singer girlfriend has had a miscarriage.

In a twisted way, this tragedy opens the door for Mira and Eamonn to rekindle their relationship, if only for one night. Here are two actors and ex-lovers stranded in Paris, engaged in projects that won’t let either of them go, just because the show has to go on. Amid the uncertainty, their renewed intimacy is familiar and inviting. And, most likely, a new disaster for both.

• Rene’s insistence that a crane fired in the party scene brush the tops of the extras’ heads shows an admirable constant drive to make his set as dangerous as possible.

• Thurston Moore’s score for Irma Vep really asserts itself in this episode to typically unconventional effect. One might expect a buzzing guitar vibe from it, but the score has a more subtly unsettling show-in-the-show effect as if to further disrupt the rhythm of the scenes. Something seems deliberately wrong about this.

• Edmond’s inferiority complex continues to rage both on and off screen. He complains to Rene that his character is “diminished” by another character who points to a key piece of evidence, then he wonders why Mira and the newly arrived Hong Kong actress both have personal assistants but he doesn’t. “Do you see me as a loser?

• “Time does not heal. Time buries the pain, but the wounds remain.


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