Monday, February 11, 2008

Julie Delpy + Paris = Très Magnifique!

I rarely laugh out loud when I watch a film by myself. I don't know why, I just don't. I don't outwardly emote much when I watch films, except for crying. I do that a lot. Generally, I'm a quiet, intense viewer. I have a fabulous sense of humor and think things are funny and chuckle every now and then, but I tend to do it more when I have other people I can feed off of watching with me. It takes a very special movie to make me laugh out loud alone, and last night, 2 Days in Paris was that movie.

I didn't just laugh out loud a couple times. I was totally cracking up for large portions of it. It's hilarious! And it's also smart and profound and brilliant, everything I'd expect from Julie Delpy's directorial debut. I think Julie Delpy is one of the best actresses around. It doesn't get much better than Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. She's so beautiful (one of the most beautiful women around, actually), sweet, and intelligent, and she has such a magnetic and down-to-earth presence. She seems like she'd be very approachable. She was one of my very few star sightings in Cannes. I was walking with another person down the sidewalk, and she came right at us from the opposite direction and breezed on by, radiant in a red dress. Before we had time to recover from our whiplash and choke out, "Was that Julie Delpy?" - she was gone. I wish I could have met her.

She was there promoting 2 Days in Paris, and I'm absolutely in love with this film. Julie Delpy is a real dynamo - she produced, wrote, directed, composed the music, edited, and starred. C'est incroyable! Whee, I can put my high school French to use. Seriously, that's a massive achievement in itself, but when the film is as successful as this one is, that's even more amazing. It's very reminiscent of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset in its spontaneous, improvisational feel, with the overall style, but especially with the dialogue. People talk so fast and overlap - it's the lightning fast dialogue of a Howard Hawks film or Gilmore Girls (don't knock Gilmore Girls, it's genius). It's so fresh and witty, but it seems totally natural.

2 Days in Paris is a wonderful example of the modern comedy of romance. Note that I did not call it a romantic comedy. In a comedy of romance, it's not really about if boy and girl will get together, but about what boy and girl learn about themselves along the way. These films examine the intricacies and realities of relationships. Love is fantastic, but it can be painful, too. I also see this film as an example of a subgenre of the romantic comedy called "perception as transgression." This means that one person thinks the other person is cheating, and just that perception, that little seed of doubt, is enough to condemn him or her. This is the case with Jack (Adam Goldberg) in this film. While spending 2 days in Paris with Marion's (Julie Delpy) family, they run into tons of her exes, and his jealousy and insecurities get out of control. He has a hard time accepting her past. I think the film handles these issues beautifully and truthfully.

To take a brief detour, I want to mention that I took two revelatory courses chronicling the romantic comedy (and its transition to the comedy of romance) from 1930 until the present. I owe my knowledge and understanding of this genre to my brilliant teacher. I owe him a lot, actually. He's been a constant source of inspiration, and he always will be. Ron, I hope I'm making you proud.

Now that I'm finished with my Hallmark moment, I should return to Delpy-land. I love that the characters, Marion and Jack, are totally messed up. They're real people with idiosyncrasies and neuroses. They're not perfect. There are moments when I don't even like them. But ultimately, that's why I love them.

Delpy has a gorgeous, distinct visual style. There are some especially interesting moments involving a photo montage and drawing on the screen. Overall, she has a great sense of composition and framing. She clearly loves Paris, but she's also not afraid to make fun of it (taxi drivers get the brunt of it). She seems to have the sort of love/hate relationship with France that most Americans have with America. It's quite refreshing. She doesn't idealize her homeland, and Marion displays a scrutinizing cynicism that I believe Delpy shares on some level. We all get disillusioned with our nations sometimes.

The acting is amazing. Delpy is phenomenal and a total breath of fresh air. She makes it look effortless. And Adam Goldberg is astounding. I don't think I've ever seen him in anything before, but he's great. He's really, really funny, too. About half of the film is in French, and you really get a sense of his horrible confusion and culture shock. There's a great sequence at a fast food restaurant that made me giggle out loud just now thinking about it. Delpy and Goldberg have great chemistry. It's probably because they used to date. I think it's awesome that they're still able to work together so intimately.

2 Days in Paris is genuine, funny, poignant, smart, unbelievably quirky, and unflinchingly personal and autobiographical. Just for starters, Delpy has the same bad eyesight as her character, she dated Goldberg, and her parents in the film are played by her real-life parents (her parents are actors, and hilarious). It feels very self-reflexive. That's brave and beautiful. I loved this film. She's apparently working on another tour-de-force project in which she does everything called The Countess. I can't wait to see it. I simply adore her. She inspires me, and she's definitely a role model of mine. 2 Days in Paris is a special movie made by a special woman.

As a random postscript, I will never think of balloons in quite the same way again after seeing 2 Days in Paris. I'll leave it at that.

Rating: ***** (out of 5)

1 comment:

Alex said...

I agree with a lot of what you say. I was surprised at how much I liked this film. I had the same laugh out loud moments as you did!