news ‘Irma Vep’ Filmmaker Olivier Assayas Laments There Is ‘Very Little Space’ for Auteurs in Modern Cinema

Olivier Assayas did what seems like the impossible: The writer-director remade his own 1996 film “Irma Vep” as an HBO limited series.

Why? Well, Assayas saw the need to update the meta message of fame, mirrored celebrity, and even international filmmaking collaborations for the modern age. He felt the original film, starring his now ex-wife Maggie Cheung, has “nothing to do with the world.”

“We are in a moment of very deep transformation of whatever we call cinema, in terms of aesthetics, in terms of financing, in terms of viewing,” Assayas explained to the Los Angeles Times. “‘Irma Vep,’ the original one and same with this one, has one foot in the past and one foot in the present.”

A reimagined film would have been “impossible,” according to Assayas, who then opted for television. “No one would have financed it,” he stated. “It would’ve made no sense.”

The “Personal Shopper” director pointed to the current model of financing films as a whole, which in turn binds budding filmmakers.

“The difficulty is the way movies are financed nowadays. There is very little space for ‘auteur’ filmmaking or independent filmmaking in the way things seems to be evolving right now,” Assayas said. “Those are the core of whatever cinema is about. And it’s in crisis because the money is not there. The distribution formats are not there. So it’s a moment of a lot of soul searching in terms of what cinema will be, where it’s heading, and what is its future.”

Assayas called HBO’s “Irma Vep,” a joint production with A24, an “eight-hour canvas” that hinged on the “globalization of cinema” as a whole.

“This series is ultimately where it was all leading to in a way because when I’ve made movies that dealt with those themes, they were always European financed and they were done from a completely European perspective,” Assayas continued. “What I am saying is that the series is kind of living proof that it can be done. You can make multi-national films, and they can be a really exciting source of inspiration, and it can get financed. It’s a format where you mix languages and you mix cultures. Who wants that? Basically everybody. Everyone wants that because that’s how people live nowadays. That’s where the culture is.”

IndieWire’s Steve Greene wrote in his review that the series easily could have fallen into a “flippant exercise in self-awareness” for Assayas. Instead, Greene penned, “Irma Vep” propels forward into a “more clear-eyed approach” to the familiar yet still elusive message of the original film.

“Given the quarter-century time gap since his last ‘Irma Vep’ it also wouldn’t be shocking for this to be an Assayas-centric, self-absorbed therapy session in eight hourlong chunks,” Greene noted. “The feat of this ‘Irma Vep’ is that it shrewdly stirs in handfuls of each while maintaining an overall flavor decidedly in its own third category.”