Rethinking Irma Vep, Redux (TQP0122)
I am a terrible artist, in every sense of the word, but I want to play, too. For good work, see Jeff’s post here, and also whatever craziness they’re coming up with at Whitechapel. I can’t do anything like those guys can do, but I love to use these remake/redesign ideas as kind of brainstorming sessions. Often, I’ll get fixated on just one part of the idea, and say to myself, “What about this? How would that work?” Often, I’ll do this without much consideration for aesthetics which, again, is why you should look at those other spots for good art.
So, what fascinates me about Irma Vep are her crazy wings. Look at those crazy wings! Why would you have crazy wings like that? Are they good for robberies? Can she fly with them? Does she have to fight people with those wings? Would they help, or get in the way? What are they made of? Where did she get them? (In the 1916 newspaper article promoting Les Vampires, they describe “wings of suede.” I don’t think they’re suede.)
I think the wings are the biggest challenge that an artist would face, because you’d have to make them look both a) awesome, and b) like they were good for something. So, brainstorming: let’s assume that the wings are good for gliding. Probably, the best way to do this is some kind of a parafoil, so that you don’t have to actually have an extensive wingspan. You couldn’t get a lot of lift, but you could use them to survive falls that would kill other people, and in a city like Paris where all the buildings are close together, that could be pretty handy.
I’m envisioning them attached at the wrists, rather than the whole arms, and maybe collapsible in some way. They’re attached to sticks, that she can grab onto to stretch the parafoil out a little bit. Also, she can hit people with the sticks. Hitting people with sticks that are attached by some kind of kevlar-nylon parachute strung across your back is going to be tricky, I think, so you’d want to use something neat for reference. Something like, say, This:
Or, possibly something like this:
You want a lot of circular movements, and you want to make use of that cape as a distraction–something that will disguise the shape and movement of whatever your body is doing. I am seeing action scenes where Irma is delineated only by what the cape is doing–the rest of her body is abstracted almost to invisibility, the way that you sometimes see Batman as just this billowy cloak and cowl. This is good, because there should be a creepy elegance to Irma Vep, a kind of restrained power that I’m not sure would be served by something like le Parkour. The Parkour is noisy, visually speaking–it might be that that’s what she’s doing, but it needs to look like she’s not doing anything; being seen to expend effort is being seen to have weakness.
Batman is a pretty good model, actually–Les Vampires was based on the real-life Bonnot Gang which, in 1911 and 1912, committed a series of daring robberies and murders using technology unavailable to the police of Paris: at the time, that was automobiles and repeater rifles. Nowadays, it’s presumably super-tensile strength parafoil cloth. They were also anarchists that followed the lifestyle of “illegalism” which is criminality raised to a philosophical form.
Irma Vep and her vampires, then, are kind of like the anti-Batmen–high-tech ninjas with a spiritual devotion to theft and murder, criminals in the purest sense of the word, devoted not to personal gain but to criminality itself.
Actually, this idea gives you a good base to work with, because crime philosophers have got to be pretty rare–wouldn’t most people just be in the Vampire Secret Society so they can get rich? Is Irma one of those people, or is she a true devotee? How does she feel about the faithless? What about the leader of the Secret Society? Is he an exoteric criminal (following only the outward, material demands of the criminal philosophy), or an esoteric one (following the path of criminality as a way to spiritual salvation)? Irma Vep as a devotee of transgression is good, because it also gives you lots of opportunity for sexy bits and betrayal. Is she manipulating people to get their money, or is she doing it as a philosophical imperative? How do you know if she really loves you…especially when she’s not just setting you up for betrayal because she wants to get something from you, she’s setting you up because betrayal itself is a positive outcome for her?
Maybe there is a newspaper reporter involved in this. Some kind of gonzo journalist who’s trying to understand the Vampires–he’s not a spy, I think they’d probably let him in. Maybe the Grand Vampire is taking a calculated risk, accepting the danger that the Society will be uncovered in exchange for propagating the idea around the world. Maybe the newspaper reporter balks at some point in his coverage, tries to seduce Irma out of that world, only to discover that he’s being brought deeper and deeper into it; all because he doesn’t understand that Irma doesn’t lie and manipulate and steal and kill because she needs to, she does it because she wants to.
There. I have applied some Science to this.
UPDATE: She should look like Elyse Sewell from America’s Next Top Model cycle 1:
She should look like AJ from Cycle 7, sorry:
You can’t really see the picture very well, I couldn’t find a close-up. Also, Irma could look like this all the time, that would be pretty cool (this is Brooke from Cycle 7–NOT THAT I WOULD FUCKING KNOW THAT).