Thursday Nov 24, 2022
Olivier Assayas has always been a filmmaker and critic who is interested in the essential question: what is cinema? His reflections are often espoused though the characters in his films, with the repeated deployment of the "film within a film" device, and now, in the recreation of his 1996 low budget cult classic Irma Vep, into a 8-episode HBO miniseries. This week Dario was joined by Reader in Film Studies Dr Catherine Wheatley to discuss the original film. But with Catherine writing a positive, joyful, review of the TV "sequel" in Sight and Sound, aspects of comparison were always going to suffuse the conversation. We talk about Assayas as a postmodern, chameleonic filmmaker, and his place in the history of French cinema as both an insider and outsider.
Then of course there is the ethereal vision that is Maggie Cheung. Paradoxically, in the film she plays the mystical, femme fatale role, made famous by Musidora in Louis Feuillade's fabled 1915 Les Vampires. Assayas clearly anchors the film on her mesmerising beauty, perhaps bordering on exoticisation. But she is also normalised in the role. Playing a meta-fictional version of herself, a star on the verge of international breakthrough but somewhat lost in the chaos of a Parisian film shoot that is falling apart. Comparisons with Alicia Vikander, cast in the recent TV sequel are also a centre-point to the conversation.
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