In modern French cinema, there are few directors capable of reminding you of the classics of New Wave cinema from the 1960s such as The 400 blows Where My night at Maud’s. With a Rohmer-style, Olivier Assayas is the director who comes closest to it with a political and philosophical bent that makes interesting use of visuals while making dialogue the main arena of conflict. Even with all the nostalgia Assayas may cause, he doesn’t revere these directors as idols and instead addresses their shortcomings and the shortcomings of modern cinema in general. That’s what made him a star director of the 1990s and his new mini-series, Irma Vepfeaturing Alicia Vikander turns out to be an even deeper dismantling of society, cinema and identity. For those who can’t get enough of this mini-series, here’s a list you’re sure to enjoy!
Irma Vep (1996)
The only really obvious choice to watch after the remake miniseries is the original masterpiece, Irma Vep. Featuring his then-wife and Hong Kong acting legend, Maggie Cheung (love mood) in an extremely meta role as a Chinese actress famous for her roles in action films who comes to France to star in a remake of The vampires and instead finds a set full of drama, madness, and mediocrity. While his new miniseries serves as a teardown of the state of Hollywood today, his original film tackles French cinema and his bizarre obsession with the auteur as well as the price of stardom. With fabulous performances from Cheung and Jean-Pierre Leaud (The 400 blows), This is a must see!
The only other project that Assayas has turned into both a miniseries and an edited film, carlos is a political epic that takes you through the Cold War decades and around the world. The film centers on the notorious Venezuelan political terrorist, Carlos the Jackal (Edgar Ramirez), and his birth as a fighter in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and his evolution as the founder of a global terrorist organization. Although many don’t know Carlos, Assayas describes him as something of a terrorist version of Forrest Gump, a behind-the-scenes guy who seems to show up at the most important places and times in Cold War history. In a film that shows another side of the Cold War, Assayas proves how dramatic history can be!
Center Stage (1991)
In another great vehicle from Maggie Cheung, director Stanley Kwan infuses a show business documentary with an elaborate biopic. center stage focuses on Chinese life silent movie Legend Ruan Lingyu (Cheung) as she rises from humble beginnings, becomes a star, and sadly kills herself in what some believe is a direct response to damning and insidious tabloid gossip. The other half of the film features interviews with Cheung, other actors, and people who knew Lingyu as they talk about what his legendary status means to them. For another film that examines the nature of stardom with meta tactics and nostalgic visuals, check out center stage.
In this examination of the artistic process, Assayas has given us an intense psychological examination of performance and identity. Clouds of Sils Maria begins when veteran actress Maria (Juliette Binoche) accepts a role in the play that made her famous, but this time as a desperate elderly woman and not the powerful young girl she originally played. Accepting her age, her personal assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) rehearses with her and begins to see how art and life become one. Assayas delivers such a disorienting story that we even begin to wonder what is real in the film and what is merely a play.
Day for Night (1973)
The ultimate movie about making a movie, day to night is Francois Truffautthe masterpiece. This 1973 classic follows a cast and crew who attempt to make a film about adultery but struggle to complete it for a myriad of professional and personal reasons. Jean-Luc Godard may have derided the film as a misleading and inaccurate portrayal of cinema, you can’t help but get drunk. Perhaps the film promotes a lie, but with dramatic storylines directed by Jean Pierre Leaud, Jacqueline Bissetand Valentina Corteseit’s the most beautiful lie you’ll ever see.
However Robert Altman A precursor director in the 1970s, the 80s saw his career slow down until 1992 when he directed this meta-comedy thriller. The player follows a Hollywood executive named Griffin Mill (Tim Robin) who receives death threats from a writer whose screenplay he rejected, his only problem is that he doesn’t know which one. Having been shunned after its bomb at the box office, popeye, Altman was well aware of how toxic and unforgiving Hollywood could be and his perspective pierces through the screen. Filled with thrills and jokes at the expense of the film industry, this is one of Altman’s most biting takedowns!
In 2014, Alicia Vikander exploded into mainstream culture directing four films, but the one that stood out the most was Ex-Machina. The film follows Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer invited by its CEO (Oscar Isaac) to administer the Turing test to an intelligent humanoid robot, Ava (Vikander). Alex GarlandThe sci-fi epic From Us asks two questions: do AI robots have the same feelings as humans and if so, can they be trusted? These questions may be difficult to answer, but these questions are certainly worth our attention and Vikander’s presence keeps us guessing.
Another French filmmaker who chose to examine Hollywood culture, Michel Hazanavicius‘ The artist is alone because only the second silent film to win Best Picture Oscar. The film tells the story of a fictional silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) whose career begins to crumble as the talking pictures arrive. To add insult to injury, the young woman he loves and has made a career out of, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), finally gets his big break. In what appears to be a cinematic response to the more optimistic version of this story depicted in Sing in the rain, The artist offers a more realistic and sometimes hard-to-watch depiction of how Hollywood gobbles you up and spits you out.
It’s hard to find a better film noir that examines Hollywood culture and the fear of being forgotten before you’ve even breathed your last. sunset boulevard begins when LAPD officers and photographers discover the body of screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) floating lifelessly in a swimming pool. The rest of the film is a flashback told from Joe’s perspective as he details how his association with an aging silent film star, Norma DesmondGloria Swanson led to his untimely death. Sometimes the story seems straight out of Charles Dickin’s great expectations and in others James M Cainit is Double Indemnity while maintaining a cinematic dynamism that is difficult to categorize.
8 ½ (1963)
Federico Fellini may have done many masterpieces in his career, but that’s 8 ½ which remains synonymous with the artistic approach and the director himself. 8 ½ follows Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni), a director who finds himself dealing with a deadly case of writer’s block as he prepares to shoot his ninth film. Doctors examine him and urge him to seek treatment to no avail, staff work overtime on sets and costumes they don’t know if they’ll use, and his mistress and wife vie for his attention. The film should be as messy as this man’s life, but instead Fellini uses this calamitous moment to examine his past and the future of cinema.