Alicia Vikander reveals the absurdities of fame

HBO’s new series “Irma Vep,” starring Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, is a clever satire of the entertainment industry…with a psychological bent.

Premiering Monday, June 6 at 9 p.m., the series is primarily in English with some French subtitles. It is based on the 1996 film of the same name, which followed a film crew led by an unstable director remaking a 1915 French film noir called “Les Vampires”, about a group of criminals including Irma Vep, who wore a jumpsuit black.

The “Irma Vep” series has a similar premise, updated for modern times. Vikander plays the role of Mira, an American actress who goes on a press tour to promote “Doomsday”, a superhero movie in which she stars. Her agent Zelda (Carrie Brownstein) wants her to keep making more superhero fare, but Mira is disappointed with her career. She therefore chooses to live in Paris to star in an artistic and gothic remake of the French film noir “Les Vampires”, in which she will play Irma Vep, whom she describes as “the diabolical muse of a criminal gang”.

Alicia Vikander as American actress Mira, who plays the character of Irma Vep, sneaking around in a catsuit in Paris.
Photograph by Carole Bethuel/HBO
Alicia Vikander and Adria Arjona sit together on a sofa.
Mira (Alicia Vikander, right) with her ex, Lori (Adria Arjona, left) in “Irma Vep.”
Photograph by Carole Bethuel/HBO

Mira has just broken up with her ex-assistant, Lori (Adria Arjona); meanwhile, her ex-boyfriend, an actor (Tom Sturridge), is also in Paris turning his personal life into a maze. Its director René Vidal (Vincent Macaigne) is struggling with depression, and he wants to get so close to the original “Les Vampires” that many of his actors have trouble analyzing their character’s motivations.

Like all TV shows about making other shows or movies, “Irma Vep” is meta and pokes fun at the nonsense of the entertainment industry. Besides the surreal nature of seeing a famous actress, Vikander, play the famous actress, Mira – deftly navigating on-screen press interviews (much like Vikander herself does in real life) – “Irma Vep also features scenes of actors discussing their characters’ motivations (while Rene yells back, “Next time you say ‘motivations,’ I’ll choke you!”). As one stage-stealing actor (played by Lars Eidinger) puts it, “I’ve been away for 24 hours.” There are also plenty of scenes of practical details about what it takes to pull off a project like “Irma Vep.”

Alicia Vikander sits in a chair in a large, chic room.
Alicia Vikander as Mira in “Irma Vep”.
Photograph by Carole Bethuel/HBO
René (Vincent Macaigne) talks to Mira (Alicia Vikander) outside in a field.
René (Vincent Macaigne) directing Mira (Alicia Vikander) in “Irma Vep”.
Photograph by Carole Bethuel/HBO

It’s impossible for a show like this to avoid navel-gazing territory, but that’s the nature of the genre. “Irma Vep” is consistently entertaining and infused with a sense of playful unpredictability, with scenes moving from dark humor to melancholy. Since the story often jumps from following Mira or Rene – to film noir scenes in the series (which features top hats, dungeons, and grandiose dialogue such as “I am the Vampire Grand Inquisitor” ) – it can sometimes feel like the series is throwing its net in many different directions. But it’s never confusing, and it keeps viewers on their toes as Mira’s story begins to resonate with her character. The transporting visuals of Paris are also a nice touch.

Vikander plays Mira as jaded and ironic in a “been there, done that” kind of way. Her American accent quits at times, but that doesn’t distract much from an otherwise playful performance that sees her disappear into the role.

For anyone who loves shows like “Extras” and “Call My Agent” or movies like “Birdman,” “Irma Vep” is a welcome addition to the film and television industry genre that spins on its own. .

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