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Harsh and Funny With a Twisted Side

November 30th, 2009 · 2 Comments

2 Days in Paris, 2007 poster 2 Days in Paris, 2007, Chinese poster

2 Days in Paris (2007)
Written by Julie Delpy
Directed by Julie Delpy
Produced by Tempête Sous un Crâne/ Polaris Films/ 3L Filmproduktion/ Rezo Films
MPAA rating: “R for sexual content, some nudity and language”
Running time: 96 minutes

Should I Care?
As someone who vaguely admires the walking and talking travelogues Julie Delpy starred in with Ethan Hawke for director Richard Linklater — Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004) — it took me weeks to get around to watching Delpy’s feature film directing debut 2 Days in Paris, which on appearance, looked like a fairly flaccid copy. But what Delpy divines from a somewhat used and abused premise not only kept me entertained, but impressed the hell out of me. Unlike the Before films — or Linklater’s oeuvre following Dazed and Confused — Delpy’s relationship comedy not only maintains a coherent point of view throughout, but introduces a filmmaker with both a funny bone and balls, firing some hilarious flak at both her motherland and her adopted country in the twilight of the Bush Years.

2 Days in Paris bears one mark of a terrific movie: Delpy makes it all look easy. Plugging friends and family into roles and shooting largely at her parent’s home in Paris, there’s a handmade, organic texture that was mandated by the budget, but in a welcome surprise, the movie is also a laugh riot. Delpy has a terrific ear for the way heated conversations play out, beginning innocuously, then growing more contentious, until your taxi driver is calling you a cunt. Goldberg & Delpy have chemistry that would have been palpable in Iowa, but in Paris, their relationship is stuffed in a pressure cooker. Shot in digital high-def, 2 Days in Paris doesn’t look a penny more than it cost, but that home movie vibe enhances the edginess and unadulterated passion Delpy seems to have been after. Bravo.

2 Days In Paris, 2007, Adam Goldberg, Julie Delpy

So, What’s This About?
A New York couple returns from a Venetian getaway to pick up the woman’s cat and visit her family and friends in Paris before flying home. Marion (Julie Delpy) is a photographer, gutsy and open minded, qualities that have enabled her to co-exist with Jack (Adam Goldberg), an interior designer with neuroses about everything from food to mold to public transit. Barely able to comprehend French, he’s introduced to Marion’s family. Her dramatic mother (Marie Pillet) has overfed Marion’s cat, prompting fears the airline will deny the beloved pet passage in the cabin. Marion’s father (Albert Delpy) takes pleasure in keying cars that park too close to the sidewalk and uses his ribald sense of humor to make Jack uncomfortable.

Marion’s sister (Alexia Landeau) is a special education teacher who hates kids; she sides with Jack in disgust over Marion sharing nude photos of her boyfriend with the family. Jack expresses a desire to visit the Catacombs — which end up being closed — and Jim Morrison’s gravesite, even though he doesn’t really like The Doors. Whether on the sidewalk or at a party, the morose Jack endures being introduced to one amorous ex-boyfriend of Marion’s after another. Bewildered by French customs and language, he grows suspicious of his girlfriend’s fidelity. Meanwhile, Marion begins to realize how little she knows about her boyfriend of two years and questions whether she can continue to put up with his act.

2 Days In Paris, 2007, Julie Delpy

Who Made It?
Julie Delpy — the only child of actors Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet — grew up in Paris, where she made her acting debut at the age of 5. She was 14 when cast in a movie (Jean-Luc Godard’s Detective) and received a César nomination for her work in Bertrand Tavernier’s Béatrice at age 18. Delpy moved to the United States in 1989 to study film and screenwriting at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She won wide acclaim for her role as a Nazi teenager in Europa Europa (1990) and went on to star in White (1994) and Before Sunrise (1995). After graduating college in 1993, Delpy moved to Los Angeles and between acting jobs, wrote and directed three short films over the next decade. She earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing Before Sunset (2004) with Richard Linklater & Ethan Hawke.

Delpy dubbed her production company Tempête Sous un Crâne, wrote several unproduced scripts over the years and had ideas for many more. One was about a French/American couple and their 48-hour nightmare visit to Paris. A producer named Christophe Mazodier — who Delpy was working with on a movie that never came together — liked the idea. With his French based Polaris Films supporting her, Delpy was finally able to land financing from Germany’s 3L Filmproduktion and France’s Rezo Films, who agreed to split the roughly $2.5 million budget for Delpy to make her feature film directing debut. Family and friends comprised much of the cast and 2 Days in Paris was such a crowd pleaser at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2007 that it quickly sold to exhibitors in over 40 territories.

2 Days In Paris, 2007, Albert Delpy, Alexia Landuea, Adam Goldberg, Julie Delpy, Marie Pillet

How’d They Do It?
Julie Delpy hit upon the idea for what became her feature film directing debut some time before she helped author Before Sunset. “I thought about it for the first time in 2001, and I thought it would be funny to have a movie about a relationship over 48 hours in Paris that falls apart. An American guy with a lot of neuroses, and a fearless French woman who doesn’t have any neuroses. I actually originally started writing a short story or a novel, but I can’t write novels, I’m not capable of doing it. It always ends up that I start doing the dialogue, and as it goes along I transfer it from Word to Final Draft and it turns into a screenplay. Then Richard Linklater called me for writing Before Sunset, so I was like, ‘OK, forget that one! Why don’t we set Before Sunset in Paris?’ They were like, ‘OK, let’s do that.’”

Five years later, the actress mentioned the idea to producer Christophe Mazodier, who was working with Delpy on another project. The founder of Polaris Film Production (with Thierry Potok and Hubert Toint) recalled, “She talked to me about the story of 2 Days in Paris, which attracted my interest right away. In January 2006, she asked me to help her find a team for a challenging shoot with a very small budget, but I thought it a pity to make the film in this way and I suggested to her that I’d take care of it. We barely had 20 pages of dialogue, but Julie wrote the rest very quickly, even if there were still gaps. The aim was to leave enough room for improvisation on the set and especially to go very quickly while keeping our editorial freedom, not having to look at all costs for television backing.”

2 Days In Paris, 2007, Julie Delpy

Mazodier and Delpy arrived on a sum of €1.7 million (roughly $2.5 million USD) needed to produce the film they had in mind. The producer revealed, “2 Days in Paris was based on a clear and very personal idea of Julie’s. So we needed to develop trust in its ability to attract audiences. The Anglo-Saxon, German or European audiences had no problem in imagining that, probably because they’re more receptive to films like Before Sunset and Before Sunrise. But the French still see Julie as the young 16 year-old actress of Tavernier and investors traditionally like very written scripts, where every comma is thought out, very far from Julie’s conceptual approach. Our approach is certainly a little unsettling for the French market because we said we would shoot the film in June 2006 with or without backing.”

Adam Goldberg — the energetic character actor best known as Mellish from Saving Private Ryan — had been approached by Delpy years ago with the prospect of playing Jack. “I used to read scripts of hers, and it always seemed nuts to me that she wasn’t directing. I thought we had a very strange and funny dynamic, and I definitely liked the idea of at least attempting to put that on film.” Delpy enthused, “I knew him for a long time and I always thought he’d be great as a lead — an offbeat romantic lead. But he’d never had that chance because maybe he’s a different kind of personality that people didn’t dare to hire him to play a whole film.” She added, “The sadder and more angry he looks, the funnier he is. There were times he didn’t even want to be funny but he just had that quality.”

2 Days In Paris, 2007, Adam Goldberg

In February 2006, Germany’s 3L Filmproduktion and France’s Rezo Films stepped up to finance 2 Days in Paris. Delpy admitted, “The biggest stress was not getting the money we thought we were going to get. The producer thought we were going to get money from the French government; and then he thought we were going to get money from Paris, because Paris gives people money when they shoot in the city; then we thought we were going to get money from a French-German fund, but we didn’t get it because some director didn’t like the screenplay and fought against it, like, violently — and gave the money to his best friend! So we got no help whatsoever, and we made the film with very little money.” With filming already delayed one week while Adam Goldberg wrapped a role in Deja Vu, cameras rolled in June 2006 only 12 hours after the actor landed in Paris.

Working with French cinematographer Lubomir Bakchev and shooting in digital high definition using the Sony HDW-750 camera, Delpy’s visual palette was dictated by a 20-day schedule. “I think the fact that we didn’t have too much money to do those wonderful shots of Paris — we were shooting in HD and wide shots don’t look that great in HD. Daytime in Paris is not that pretty in HD.” She added, “It was a choice but it was also because I had no choice. I would have loved to have been able to do a few shots in 35mm but we didn’t have the money to do that. We limited it but I think it works for the film in the way that I played with it — your limitations can be a strength, in a way. I like that look. One of my favorite movies is Fat City, which is all done with long lenses. I love those long-lens things where things are blurry in the background and only the people are in focus.”

2 Days In Paris, 2007, Julie Delpy, Adam Goldberg

With no one to compose a musical score, Delpy — who wrote and produced a well received, self-titled folk/pop album in 2003 — considered not using any music. “My boyfriend is a composer, Marc Streitenfeld, and he was watching the film with me and I asked if he thought it was missing music and he thought it was, so I went to my room and I have an entire file in my computer of film music that I wrote. It’s themes and other little odd bits that I wrote for fun. So I picked one and it worked, I rearranged another and wrote something new for the ‘Jealously Theme’. I think the music actually adds comedy to the film, which I think is great.” She added, “It helped a lot that I was editing the film in my house, so I could just go to my room and write it out, then put it into the film. Some worked and some didn’t. But the processes felt quite organic.”

Christophe Mazodier stated, “We never doubted that the film would interest the whole world, but we very quickly got confirmation of that at Cannes 2006 when the title was pre-sold to Japan. The script had the potential to do really well abroad because it had, with a lot of humor and without taking itself seriously, everything that foreigners think about the French. And it wasn’t only one-sided because the Americans aren’t spared either. It’s a fake romantic comedy.” A screening at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2007 was so well received that Rezo Films successfully sold 2 Days in Paris to exhibitors in 40 territories. Delpy mused, “Maybe the appeal is the dysfunction of it. Maybe every family is dysfunctional and that’s the only thing in common throughout the world.”

2 Days In Paris, 2007, Adam Goldberg, Albert Delpy

Opening May 2007 in Germany and Austria, August 2007 in the United States, the U.K. and Canada, the fake romantic comedy was well reviewed by critics. Carina Chocano, The Los Angeles Times:2 Days in Paris is pure Julie Delpy, figuratively and otherwise. Since first becoming known to American audiences in the early ’90s, she’s revealed herself to be an artist of sundry and unexpected talents, with a distinctive voice and point of view.” Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun Times: “Delpy in fact has made a smart film with an edge to it; her Jack and Marion reveal things about themselves they never thought they’d tell anybody, and we wonder why they ever went out on a second date.” Marjorie Baumgarten, The Austin Chronicle:2 Days in Paris provides a smart and funny respite from most of what passes for romantic comedy these days.”

Delpy’s directorial debut quietly grossed $4.4 million in the United States and $15.2 million overseas. The actress/ writer/ producer/ director/ composer set 2 Days in Paris apart from her other work by revealing, “A friend of mine suggested that I should try to make something that might seem from afar to be like Before Sunset since I had just had some success with that, and then do something totally different in tone and style. Apart from Paris and a French-American couple, there is nothing in it that resembles that film. It is more of a comedy than a romantic movie while Before Sunset was more of a romantic movie — it is light but it is not a comedy. This one is more of a straightforward comedy. I love Before Sunset, don’t get me wrong, but it is just a different film. I think it turns out to be kind of a romantic film in the end but throughout the film, it is more harsh and funny with a twisted side.”

2 Days In Paris, 2007, Adam Goldberg, Julie Delpy

Where’d You Get All of This?
“Christophe Mazodier: Producer” By Fabien Lemercier. CineEuropa, 9 July 2007

“A French Actress’s Life on Screen. Kind Of” By Kristin Hohenadel. The New York Times, 5 August 2007

“Interview: Julie Delpy” By Benjamin Crossley-Marra. IonCinema.com, 6 August 2007

2 Days In Paris Director Julie Delpy” By Erica Abel. indieWIRE, 9 August 2007

“Julie Delpy, 2 Days In Paris By Nick Dawson. FilmMaker Magazine, 10 August 2007

“Interview: 20 Minutes In Julie Delpy’s Head” By Peter Sobczynski. efilmcritic.com, 29 August 2007

Two Days In Paris: Julie Delpy Interview” By Ron Carnevale. indieLondon

Tags: Drunk scene · Father/daughter relationship · Interrogation · Mother/daughter relationship · Museums and galleries · Road trip · Train · Unconventional romance

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Daniel // Dec 2, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Great look back on this one, Joe. I think it slipped by a lot of people because they thought it would be a rehash of Before Sunrise/Sunset, but they’ll be missing out. I thought it was fantastic and I loved Adam Goldberg, enough so that I want to see his new film, (Untitled).

  • 2 Joe Valdez // Dec 2, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Daniel: My sentiments exactly, sir. (Untitled) didn’t sound very interesting, but if the DVD comes in a red envelope, I’ll watch Adam Goldberg and Marley Shelton in pretty much anything. Thanks for commenting!

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