french crime films

A Century of Glamour Ghouls: 1910s

Irma Vep in Les Vampires (1915-6)

[Image Description: Photo of me dressed up and posed as Irma Vep (Musidora) from Les Vampires (1915-6). I’m wearing black from head to toe standing with a defiant posture in front a wall with floral wallpaper.]

The Movie

Louis Feuillade’s Les Vampires (1915-6) serials were made at a time when the cinematic forms of genres were crystallizing into the conventions we know all too well today. Les Vampires is a macabre crime-drama serial, often retroactively labeled horror.

The film follows Philippe, a newspaper reporter, as he investigates a shadowy gang of criminals called The Vampires. Starting with a decapitated police inspector, each successive episode sees Philippe get closer to unraveling the labyrinthine world of The Vampires while alliances shift and the body count rises. Irma Vep (Musidora) is a member of the gang who moonlights as a cabaret singer. Over the course of the series, Irma emerges as the true lead, though she never repents or renounces her life of crime; a quintessential vamp.

Derided by contemporary critics, but beloved by audiences, Les Vampires is classic pulp. One film critic expressed his feelings toward Les Vampire thusly in a 1916 issue of Hebdo-Film:

“That a man of talent, an artist, as the director of most of the great films which have been the success and glory of Gaumont, starts again to deal with this unhealthy genre, obsolete and condemned by all people of taste, remains for me a real problem.”

It’s understandably divisive that Feuillade ignores accepted filmmaking “rules” here and there. But the reading that Feuillade’s rule-breaking is strategic is certainly valid. The viewing experience is destabilized to create tension but not in ways that sacrifice narrative clarity. Feuillade will subtly skirt the rules by making unexpected cuts or switch within a scene from sequences that follow (what would later be termed) “invisible editing” standards to flat tableaus. Taken together, the audience is unsettled without necessarily knowing why. (Yes, 1915 audiences were already accustomed to these standards of visual storytelling!) It’s a great companion to the macabre events depicted in the films. A century later, The Witch: A New England Folktale (2015), directed by Robert Eggers, employs some of the same strategies.

I know seven hours of silent-film viewing might seem daunting but, unlike other serials from the era, Les Vampires’ installments are fairly self-contained stories. (My favorite is the fifth episode “Dead Man’s Escape.”) 

The Look

Musidora’s Irma Vep (yes, that is an anagram for vampire) is an archetypal vamp, in characterization and in aesthetic. Irma’s a master of disguise who can assume practically any role to further the aims of The Vampires and her loyalties change almost as often as her costumes.

The Clothes

The iconic Irma Vep look is her black catsuit, which is even referenced in a ballet about The Vampires within the film. Irma is a clear predecessor of Catwoman (not the only inspiration Batman pulls from Feuillade’s crime serials btw). 

For the closet-cosplay (or work-appropriate version), I went for an all black outfit with lace-up dress shoes.

I don’t own a black catsuit, so I made do with black tights and a black turtleneck top. Planning ahead for the costume, black hoods are easily found on amazon. I, however, don’t have a hood in my closet, so I put another pair of (clean) black tights on my head and simply wrapped the legs around my neck and tucked the ends into the back of my sweater. Voila!

The Makeup

Musidora’s Irma makeup is only occasionally as dramatic as other film vamps. When Irma’s not performing on stage, her makeup is more muted, a great basis for a wearable closet-cosplay makeup look.

For the base, I applied an even layer of powder a shade slightly lighter than my skin tone and concealed under my eyes. (Obviously Musidora would’ve been wearing more face makeup and you can too! I stuck with powder to stay true to the era. ) I didn’t bother with blush or contouring since I didn’t find it necessary.

The eye makeup is dramatic and emphasizes the shape her eyes. Since this is meant to be a more wearable look, I used brown shadow create an elongated smoky eye, (1.) blending a light layer from the lashline to just below my eyebrows and smudging what’s left on the brush all along my lower lid. (2.) Then I built up the shading around the lashline by using a wet brush in the same shadow. (3.) Then I added a little extra darker brown shadow very close to the lashline. Since this look isn’t much about the lashes, I just painted on a layer of black mascara. 

If you think this makes your eyes look too small, run liner in your lower waterline that’s either white (more striking) or a bit lighter than your skin-tone (more subtle).

Her eyebrows are slightly rounded without much of an arch, roughly mirroring the shape of her eyes. I used a brown pencil to get the shape and softened it a bit with a cooler brown powder.

As for lips, you may be tempted to go for a purple-y wine shade, but based on how contemporary cameras captured such detail around her lips, I’d wager Musidora used a medium shade. Just dark enough to create a definitive shape. Musidora’s lips are on the smaller side so, think underlining instead of overlining to make straight, sharp lines on both upper & lower lips. I carved out the lip shape with cream concealer then used a deep pink lipstick shade.

Shifting to the FULL COSTUME, you can follow the same basic steps but switch to dark gray and black for the eye makeup. I went into the waterline with black liner but, as with the daytime look, if you think it’s shrinks your eyes too much, line the waterline with white or a neutral shade just a bit lighter than your skin tone. Block the eyebrows out with a more solid line rather than keeping them natural. For the lips, I also went darker to match the high-contrast effect of the eye makeup.

Hope this inspires you all in putting together your costumes this year! 

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anonymous asked:

Domestic Headcanons for Mercy, Widowmaker and Tracer?


-Mercy is 90% wife material. She’s wonderful at everything, but cooking. Please don’t let her cook. Microwave meals are fine, but please don’t let her in the kitchen. Baking is a completely different story, she is a master baker. She sees it as a science, so she has that perfected.

-She is all about stealing body heat. If she sees her s/o standing around somewhere, like making food or looking for a snack, she will sneak up behind them and stick her cold hands under their shirt.

-She’s a really big worrywart and at the first signs of a cold, she will go full doctor mode on her s/o. She’s seen too many people die from sickness that she never wants to see it again.

-She has about 5000 candles hidden around the house. She thinks they really set the mood and she prefers those smells to the smell of hospitals. She buys them every chance she gets and loves it when her s/o buys her some.

-Mercy loves pet names, and will use them all the time, even in public. She likes to let people know who her s/o is and thinks it’s sweet when her s/o calls her by pet names too.


-Widowmaker has a certain aesthetic when it comes to their home and she likes to keep it that way. So she’s a little picky when it comes to getting things from their home. She once took three hours to pick out towels. TOWELS!

-She tends to be very sassy in public, but indoors she is very cuddly and romantic. She loves to cuddle on the couch with a glass of wine while watching black-and-white French films or crime shows (she refuses to watch anything else)

-She tends to be away a lot on missions, so every moment she got to spend with her s/o she cherishes. So when she’s back from a mission, she gets clingy for 24 hours. No more, no less.

-Widowmaker seems like she would like fancy foods like coq au vin, but she’s actually really into comfort foods and is really great at cooking it. Her s/o sometimes comes home to see her wearing one of their over sized shirts and cooking, it is one of the best parts of their day.


-Tracer tends to be very easy going, so sometimes the house can be a little bit of a mess. Only in a cluttered way though, her and her s/o do put up things like food. Don’t want ants

-Neither Tracer nor her s/o are very good at cooking, so they tend to get take out a lot. Not that they minded, they would rather not die from starvation, plus it’s always fun to try new foods. They make it a point to try a new place at least once a week.

-Tracer loves holidays! So always expect to come home to see the place randomly decorated for the holidays. Sometimes the decorations don’t make sense, but her s/o doesn’t have to heart to say anything about it. She looks so happy

-There are tons, TONS, of photos hanging around their home too. They take a photo together almost everywhere they go. Some will be in frames, some are just hanging by tape, and some are in random objects (like books or on the TV)

-Tracer is all about PDA, she loves to show off her s/o. When they’re walking down the street, she will hug their arm and place little kisses on their cheeks. If they are standing somewhere, she will hug them from behind and nuzzle her face into their back. She is not shy at all.


‘Les Quatre Cents Coups’ (The 400 Blows), François Truffaut (1959)

Antoine Doinel: I need some money for lunch, dad. Only 1,000 francs.
Julien Doinel: Therefore you hope for 500. Therefore you need 300. Here’s 100.


Trailer for Jules Dassin’s noir masterpice Du Rififi Chez les Hommes (Rififi)