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Reality Breaks in Irma Vep

Reality Breaks in <em>Irma Vep</em>

It should come as no surprise that Jane Schoenbrun, the director of We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, feels camaraderie with Olivier Assayas and his genre-defying work—both understand the radical potential of cinema and wield it to visceral, reality-bending effect. Schoenbrun’s unsettling coming-of-age movie plunges viewers into an alternate world shaped by modern internet culture. The protagonist, Casey, is a dysphoric and very online teenager who immerses herself in an eerie role-playing game distinguished by ritualized user participation. An exploration of the mythologies of adolescence, the film probes the disorienting ways in which personal identity has evolved in an age of endless information and global interconnectedness—concerns that Assayas, in his own mercurial way, has addressed for an older generation of jetsetters, entrepreneurs, and artists. As their work demonstrates, the two filmmakers also recognize the power of a good needle drop—especially when it’s rock and roll. In the following article, edited together from my conversation with Schoenbrun, the director discusses a crucial turning point in one of their favorites by Assayas, Irma Vep, a scene marked by the sudden entry of a Sonic Youth song. —Beatrice Loayza

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