Baby It’s Hot Outside! Stay in and Watch Irma Vep and Watcher (2022)

A blonde woman peers around a corner in Watcher

Recommendations this week include Irma Vep and Watcher

They call it the dog days of summer because all you want to do is lie around like a dog with its tongue stuck out. Of course, that’s not true and it’s also not the dog days of summer now, but boy it sure has been hot where I live! I recommend lounging in a cool room with a cold beverage, or perhaps a dip in the pool.

A tan man in a speedo and sunglasses lies on a raft in a pool

If you’re looking for something to watch, we’ve got a couple of recommendations for you this week. Both are recent (or current) pieces of media, which won’t always be the case if you watch this space. The question is never what’s new it’s just a matter of what we’re into and what we think is worth your time.

Here, Caemeron shares words on the Irma Vep TV series, which is currently airing on HBO on Monday nights, and Paul recommends checking out Watcher, which is currently in theaters. Our other writers are presumably too busy sweating to death to contribute at the moment.

TV Recommendation: Irma Vep

Caemeron Crain: Irma Vep (2022) is a remake of Irma Vep (1996) from the same director, Olivier Assayas. I’m always fascinated when an auteur decides to remake their own work, but in this case, the reason seems fairly apparent to me. It’s not about updating the story of Irma Vep, though there may be some of that, but rather about what this series allows Assayas to do in terms of playing with form. Indeed, pretty much everything I’m going to say in this recommendation to you is about the form of the new TV series on HBO.

Mira in the catsuit with the Paris skyline behind her in Irma Vep
Courtesy of HBO

Irma Vep the TV show is a remake of Irma Vep the movie and is about the production of a remake of the 1916 serial Les Vampires, which features a character named Irma Vep.

Now, I have not seen Les Vampires, nor have I seen the 1996 film, but I’m blown away by how the 2022 series plays with the resonances between the different versions of the story. Not infrequently, we cut between footage from Les Vampires and the film/series being made within the series. Other times, there is a shift in the lighting and coloration of a shot, as we shift between the film within the narrative and the narrative reality of the world we’re in.

Irma Vep constantly calls attention to itself as a work of fiction, while at the same time blurring the line between fiction and factual reality. It has absolutely captured my imagination, and while I’ve struggled to articulate why I think it is precisely in all of this difference and repetition, and the resonances between versions of itself.

(It’s not for nothing that Regina is reading Deleuze in Episode 1. The book she is reading is not Difference and Repetition. I believe it is one of the Cinema books, which would make sense, but I’m not completely positive.)

Regardless, watch Irma Vep!

Film Recommendation: Watcher

Paul Keelan: Watcher is one of 2022’s first sleeper hits: A taut, terrifying, psychological thriller with well-earned jump scares & sleek cinematography. Sure, it’s a bit by the numbers (unquestionably a derivative Hitchcockian riff on Rear Window), but Chloe Okuno’s impressive technical execution and Maika Monroe’s acting (not to mention her exquisite normcore fashion) elevate the overall effect—delivering suspense and dread in spades.

The sound design is exquisite. The half-chic, half-drab interior design of the Bucharest apartment mirrors countless classic ’70s horror settings with style and panache. The stalker’s creepy, indeterminate male-gaze haunts every frame—pan-optical and omnipresent, it seeps into every nook, lacuna, and crevice. Nowhere feels safe, and Okuno deftly taps into the credible hysteria of being subject to constant surveillance. Being the undesired victim of a predatory voyeur never felt more unsettling.

A blonde woman, looking around an apartment, in Watcher

Okunu’s simple yet deceptively dynamic screenplay plays very cleverly with the gendered ethics and interpersonal conflicts that surround paranoia, gaslighting, and the mutual suspicions that can subsist even between amicable lovers. Enisled by ubiquitous language barriers and an increasingly invasive stalker, Julia (Monroe) is left to brood in disquietude and isolation—despite being actively preyed upon. And the strained communication outlets she experiences while living abroad add to the suspense—heightening the fear, anxiety, and claustrophobia.

Watcher’s sole shortcoming is its ultimate lack of subtly and ambiguity. Okunu valiantly tries to distort the plot’s moral sympathies—hoping to force the audience to reckon with the difficult questions the film’s central couple in conflict face. Unfortunately, Julia’s passive-aggressive husband Francis (Karl Glusman) ends up simply coming across as unfeeling, dense, emotionally lazy, and callous. I’m not denying his dismissiveness is plausible, but a more ambivalent setup would have magnified the drama and complexity.

Despite my wish that the character dynamics were a bit more convoluted and equivocal, Watcher remains an astute and timely critique on the perils of ignoring female victims by silencing their grievances with skepticism. It is currently on its theatrical run. Check it out at the local Cineplex if you get the chance!

Written by TV Obsessive

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