Irma Vep Episode 1 Recap & Ending Explained: Irma Vep, the HBO miniseries directed by French director Oliver Assays; based on his own 1996 film by the same name, just aired its Episode 1. More inclined and unanimous with his 2014 film “Clouds of Sils Maria” than the meta-fiction of his Maggie Cheung starrer, the early sign of the show tesselate towards a doomed star, going on a downward spiral on her personal relationship, while she gets ready for what feels like a production that is going down the drain due to multiple fucked-up threads. But before we get a little too critical about how the show will pan out, let’s rewind the miniseries’ premiere.
Irma Vep Episode 1, “The Severed Head” Recap:
Episode 1 kicks off with Mira (played by Alicia Vikander), an American movie star who arrives in Paris. Before that, we get a beautifully animated opening sequence that rehashes and pays homage to one of the most scintillating moments in the original film.
The actress is exhausted and possibly on the last round of promotion for her latest Hollywood blockbuster “Doomsday.” She plays a superhero in that film, but at least now, she wants to step back and do something more art-house. And to that need, she has a perfect offer at hand. However, before all that, the premiere of her film offers some unforeseeable stress for the Hollywood star.
She wasn’t informed that the movie’s director Herman (Byron Bowers) would also be attending the premiere with his beautiful new wife Laurie (Adria Arjona). It’s a red flag for Mira because, Laurie is not just her ex-assistant, but her ex-girlfriend who she had a raunchy affair with before the two had to break off.
Their interaction oozes jealousy and sexy dominatrix energy that feels like a toxic relationship left to boil up to a maximum. Serving up some of the most delicious moments of the episode.
Anyway, after Mira wraps the last leg of interviews, attends the Paris premiere, and meets fans, she is about to go into the production of a new series named “Les Vampires,” which is itself a remake of a 1910s silent french episodic. In the show, much like the show I am describing right now, she is to play villainesses extraordinaire Irma Vep.
The show is to be directed by René Vidal (Vincent Macaigne), who is first introduced to us on the set of the first set-up episode of the production (meta-textually titled “The Severed Head”). He is unable to block a scene where a body needs to be pulled out of the swamp due to production errors before he takes a break and meets Mira. The two hit it off, in spite of the language barrier, and “Screwing up the plan” is established as the director’s first notes.
Another important element of the show and a possible line to lead to the fuck up of the production has to do with the character of Edmond and Severine in the Les Vampires production. When he asks director René to make his character have more depth with a possible sex scene with Severine, his relationship with the actress in real life, and a restraining order that she has against her come up. A follow-up scene makes us understand that she isn’t interested in him touching her, no matter how essential the sequence is or how many intimacy coordinators are on duty. Oliver Assays cleverly updates the 90s production disasters, with the new decade’s more pertinent production hassles.
Meanwhile, Rene is having issues of his own. What he has done by telling the insurance agents about him taking antidepressants, is make them doubt his production. Producer Gregory (played by Claire Denis regular Alex Descas) is not having any of it and warns Rene before he dives back into his paranoia mode shown in previous productions.
Their interaction is followed up by one of my favorite sequences from the show, and a definite highlight, which is the custom test. Mira arrives at the fitting and is introduced to the beautiful body-hugging velvet suit that she would be inhibiting to play Irma Vep. We see her prowling the hallway in a sexy and mischievous sequence as Mira disappears into the character.
Later Laurie swings by at production rehearsals and controls Mira’s sexual urges. The actress is visibly turned on and Laurie uses this energy to torment her.
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Irma Vep Episode 1, “The Severed Head” Ending Explained:
The ending of Episode 1, “The Severed Head” leads up to the promised date that Laurie had asked for with Mira. She had promised to swing by her big hotel at 6:30 PM before she goes out to the lesser outskirts for the French production.
It’s 7 pm and Laurie hasn’t shown up yet, so Mira’s assistant comes up and asks her to come with her to see the new hotel the French production has fixed for her. However, Mira declines because she is fixated on Laurie and asks her assistant to let her be.
Laurie shows up fashionably late and decides to leave just as she arrives. This pisses Mira off who spews an angry “fuck you” at Laurie. Laurie teases her with how good her life is with her rich husband and returns her “fuck you” with a cheeky “not yet.”
The show fades out with a “Coming Soon” announcement of episode two’s title.