Friday, August 17, 2007

Dating Public Television

I know why I couldn’t sleep last night, but I don’t want to talk about it. The act of lying there, close to midnight, knowing that I had to get up in less than six hours, just made me obsess all the more about the reasons I couldn’t sleep. That made it a lot of fun when I woke up this morning.

If a movie has a man and a woman confronting each other, trying to figure the other person out, I’m perfectly happy. The BEFORE SUNRISE-SUNSET films are, as I’ve said before, kind of this beautiful idealization of that scenario. Unforgettable as Celine in those films, Julie Delpy’s directorial debut 2 DAYS IN PARIS takes the opposite, darker approach to the basic subject matter and while it doesn’t come off as a total success I have absolutely no major complaints.

Shot with a Sony high-def digital camera, it’s a small, dark comedy about New Yorker Jack (Adam Goldberg) passing through Paris with his French girlfriend Marion (Delpy) so she can visit family and friends for a few days. Unexpectedly, he is confronted with many surprising aspects of who she really is. In addition to directing and starring, Delpy also wrote, co-produced, edited and composed the music. An actor who has worked with directors like Linklater, Kieslowski, Jarmusch, Godard (referenced here) and others she has clearly absorbed a great deal from the people she was worked with. Their influence is at times very much felt but 2 DAYS IN PARIS achieves its own darkly comedic tone. There’s also the obvious inspiration of Woddy Allen, who she sadly hasn’t worked with, felt here and Delpy seems to resemble a cross between Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow throughout the film. A degree of uncomfortable intimacy is refreshingly present in her film, even down to the character’s parents played by her own mother and father, who are both very funny in their roles (BEFORE SUNSET fans will recognize them as the older couple in the courtyard near that film’s end).

The ongoing battle between Americans and the French is addressed but it’s notable that one of the first things Goldberg does in the film is give bad directions to some Da Vinci Code reading, Bush/Cheney t-shirt wearing fellow Americans, as if he is defiantly striving to demonstrate how different he is from them. In some ways he is, but to everyone else he still an outsider with characters speaking in French (subtitled for us) to shut him out of conversations which causes his paranoia and his hypochondria to grow by the minute. Before going to a party, Jack attempts to decide between various types of sunglasses, trying to decide which one makes him look “more Godard”, but it’s futile. He couldn’t be more out of place and any attempts he makes to ingratiate himself with anyone tend to end in disaster. And as he witnesses more and more guys seemingly flirting with Marion the differences they share start to become both more complicated and much more simplistic then he first realized. It’s easy to imagine Goldberg’s character being not very relatable but I found myself identifying with him more and more. Maybe I need to think about why.

In writing this, I find myself focusing more on Goldberg’s character, but there are many aspects of 2 DAYS IN PARIS that are very strong, from it’s running gag about Parisian cab drivers to how unlikable Delpy allows her own character to be to the portrayal of her mother and father, that help the film dig deeper than the average MEET THE PARENTS sitcom. The bitterly funny moments throughout the first two-thirds are at times so sharp that it’s a slight disappointment when the film begins to be bitterly serious in its final section and I found myself losing my way with the film at some points here. Maybe it’s my own problem—even when she’s neurotic and bitchy she still comes off as someone who would be worth crawling over broken glass for. But like I said, I’m a little biased. I could say more on my feelings about watching people I can relate to who are in a relationship when I’m not in one. But I won’t. Don’t ask. Don’t.

Several years ago, I was walking in my neighborhood when a couple was approaching me on the street. As I glanced at them I realized the woman was Julie Delpy. I know that while I may not have done a double take, my face certainly displayed recognition. I would never have bothered her but I did give a slight nod since at that point it would have been rude not to. In response she said a quiet ‘hello’ and kept walking. I could hear her explain to the guy she was with that she didn’t know me, I was just somebody who’d recognized her. There. That’s my Julie Delpy story. I apologize to her for that moment and I applaud her for making 2 DAYS IN PARIS and any films I hope to see from her in the future.


Anonymous said...

I saw this earlier today, and my thoughts are very much along the same line as yours. It reminds me a lot of Before Sunrise (I haven't seen Sunset), although closer to earth, and generally a far more enjoyable picture. I don't like Sunrise honestly, which may play into my biterness towards it.

The communication problems throughout linguistically, really paralleled their problems communicating. Not too subtle, but I thought it was very well handled.

The humour really worked for me, and the cinematic references were a nice touch. The performances were wonderful...

One of the best films of the year, I hope to see what Delpy does next.

Mr. Peel aka Peter Avellino said...

Glad to hear that someone else has seen this film and liked it. I want to say that you should give BEFORE SUNSET a try, but since you didn't like SUNRISE maybe you shouldn't. But you should. I hope you do.