by Fabien Lemercier
- An original artist who has had a film career on both sides of the Atlantic
Julie Delpy is a cosmopolitan actress who was first discovered at 16, nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar in 2005 and is now an accomplished director at 37 with the same independence of spirit as when she first started out.
Cineuropa: Why did you choose Paris as a setting for a couple’s break-up in 2 Days in Paris [+see also:
interview: Christophe Mazodier
interview: Julie Delpy
Julie Delpy: Just after thinking up this subject, I wrote Before Sunset where Paris had no influence on the characters. In this film I did the opposite because the surroundings destroy them. Paris can be great, very pleasant, but also so difficult and destructive: it can turn into After Hours. I thought it would be amusing to deal with an extreme situation like that, where everything turns into a nightmare, with disaster after disaster.
Which theme interests you the most: the war between the sexes or the cultural opposition of the two characters?
Both, but the real subject is the progression to the next stage in a love relationship, the point where you have to commit 100%, which neither of the characters are ready to do. He hides behind his tourist façade and his camera, a way of keeping his distance. She protects herself by not letting go of her past. These are two ways of avoiding of being really intimate with someone. Both are them are afraid because it’s not easy to devote oneself. What if it isn’t the right person, if she leaves you, is unfaithful or betrays you. It’s universal, there’s nothing more painful (besides the death of loved ones) than a break-up. But I depict all that with humour.
To what extent did you want to make fun of the clichés of the French and Americans?
I played with that because it’s a comedy. But it’s on two levels because I had fun with the clichés an American has of France. For example, he’s convinced that all French women are easy and I play with that to feed his paranoia. But what counts most is the difference between a fish out of water and one completely in his element. All of a sudden this difference leads to conflicts. The film is quite mean, but at the same time very tender. The parents are monsters but still very nice, the sister only seems like a pest, the two main characters never stop verbally attacking one another but there’s still love between them. I love the contrast between what people say and what they really are. And the dialogue, the jokes, the political references add colour to the film. I also read a lot of scientific books on the causes of attraction. What makes us the animals that we are fascinates me.
What directing and editing choices did you make?
I wanted a very natural style. DoP Ludomir Bakchev, who worked on Games of Love and Chance [+see also:
film profile], uses the same realistic style in this film, almost always using hand held camera with very few still shots. Also, I wanted to create a reality that was a little offbeat (because it’s a comedy), tell a story almost like in a novel with images in visual collages, many jump cuts, a voice off at the beginning and at the end like when we remember.
The film makes discreet reference to Fritz Lang’s Murderers Among Us and Roberto Rossellini’s Journey to Italy.
Even if he didn’t rape or kill young girls, Adam Goldberg’s character feels completely excluded like M in Lang’s film and at the end he shaves an M for Marion on his chest. As for Journey to Italy, it’s a film about a very dull couple that I love. But my film is nothing like these because trying to imitate Rossellini would be totally ridiculous and absurdly pretentious.
What are the consequences of your more-international-than-French image on how your films are produced?
It works against me in France, but helps me to get foreign funding. There’s a lot of money in French cinema, but there’s very little of it in this film. It was very difficult to convince channels to invest because I’m not on the list of what are called bankable actresses.