Though she’s killed at the end of Les vampires, her gang survives in Nice in Feuillade’s sublime 1918 sequel Tih Minh, where it conspires to avenge her death and take over the entire world.
Despite Denby’s pronouncements, this is a movie that could be taking place almost anywhere in the world.
Most of the dialogue is in English, and though the film within the film happens to be a remake of a silent French classic — Louis Feuillade’s glorious 1916 serial Les vampires — the behavior and attitudes in Irma Vep have more to do with 1996 filmmaking in general and what this says about the world than they do with French filmmaking at any time and what this says about “the French.” On the other hand, French people are every bit as capable of misreading the film in relation to its nationality as New York “experts,” as if it were exclusively about French people.
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But Denby has at least half a point when he says, “I don’t see how any French person could see this movie without wincing: Assayas seems to be getting at widely shared character flaws — egotism and vanity as well as intellectual pretension substituting for creativity.” In other words, the nerve that Assayas hits is more likely to alienate French viewers, just as the nerve hit by Dead Man was more likely to alienate Americans.