If your of my generation you may know Julie Delpy from the 1995 art-house film with Ethan Hawke, Before Sunrise (not the best of her films in my opinion). What you may not know is that she’s a Paris born actor and filmmaker who moved to the United States shortly after her career took off in France. Which gives her an excellent perspective for understanding the Franco-American love-hate relationship. She knows what we love about each other, and the things we tolerate from the other (or try to). This, mixed with the exceptional dialogue for which her characters are known, means Delpy’s films are a hilariously heartbreaking look into French and American relations.
At least, that’s how I see the first film she brought to the big screen in 2007, 2 Days in Paris, which she stars in, co-produced, wrote, directed and edited. It’s the story of a couple who travel to Paris as a last ditch effort to save their relationship. She’s French, he’s American. Uncomfortable moments abound as cultures clash, and one is left wondering how the couple ever got together in the first place. Maybe I relate to the film because similar themes direct my own life, with a bi-cultural daughter and a French partner (I’m on the second one). But I think anyone can find humor in the scene where Delpy’s father (her real life father plays the role of her character’s father in the movie) serves the Easter bunny (roasted rabbit) for dinner. The Easter bunny doesn’t exist in France, instead there’s an Easter bell that flies around dropping chocolates.
But the movie isn’t simply a lesson in cultural differences. It’s a movie with rich characters, odd scenes, wit and humor. Here’s what Robert Ebert says about Delpy’s film:
What she has done here is avoid all temptation to recycle the usual lovers-in-Paris possibilities, and has created two original, quirky characters so obsessed with their differences that Paris is almost a distraction. I don’t think I heard a single accordion in the whole film.
If you’re wanting a lighter look at Paris (to offset current news reports), check this film out. And if you like the style, go right into Delpy’s second film, 2 Days in New York, where Delpy’s character leads her French family fumbling through American customs (literally, her Dad gets caught smuggling French sausages at the airport).