Irma Vep, the Last Breath

USA 2014. Dir Michelle Handelman.

The female jewel thief clad in a black body suit, Irma Vep (whose name is an anagram for Vampire), debuted in Louis Feuillade’s 1915 silent film serial Les Vampires, played by the legendary performer Musidora. The figure has since been a great source of fascination for playwrights and filmmakers. Michelle Handelman’s 2014 film Irma Vep, the Last Breath refashions the character into a cross-dressing emblem of the modern mobile sense of gender and personal identity. Imagining the aging Musidora (who in her twilight years sometimes worked as a ticket-taker at the Cinémathèque française in Paris) confront her fictional counterpart, Handelman creates a landscape where costume can redefine identity and where the past comes to act on the present.