Technically, Olivier Assayas' new Irma Vep is a remake about a remake of a film about a remake of Louis Feuillade’s epic 1915-16 silent serial, Les Vampires. Heartbreakingly, it’s about the consequences of trying to transcend reality by using filmmaking as a vehicle to touch the light.
In its fragments, its gradations and flirtations with the experimental ambience it’s quote-unquote about, Todd Haynes' The Velvet Underground renders not a history of a band or even a moment but an alternative lens to re-collect (literally, re-touch) history.
Taken as a body of work, the Before trilogy asks us to consider the tension between its fantasy and naturalism, and the extent of our own ability to exert similar control over a lonely world that ushers us through life without concern for whether we’ve found any meaning in it.
Could Grease actually be a whole lot smarter than we give it credit for? Long story short: yes. Allow me to make the case for the 1978 movie not as a dodgy product of its time, but as a countercultural artifact we could still learn a thing or two from.