Tuesday, September 4, 2007


A couple of years ago I went to a screening at the Writers Guild East for BEFORE SUNSET. There was a question and answer period afterwards with the co-writers, and co-stars, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.

I knew Hawke a little, having worked with him in the film WHITE FANG when he was still a teenager, but already a very successful and competent movie actor. I liked him, and admired the choices he had made in his life and career since then. And his thoughtful, bright, honest answers in the Q&A after the film, made me even more impressed with the man he had become.

As for Delpy, up until that screening, I had been vaguely aware of her as a beautiful French actress. But watching the film, I realized she’s an amazingly great actress. And then, in the film, she sings and plays a song she composed herself, and I suddenly understood the depth and commitment of her creativity.

I was even more impressed, when during the Q&A a writer asked how much of the dialogue was improvised, (remember, this was an audience of screenwriters, asking questions of two actors) and she and Hawke made clear that because it was shot in “real time” there was no room for even the slightest deviation from what was written in the script, down to sighs and coughs and awkward pauses.

It wasn’t only that they had written a script that was so in the moment it seemed totally improvised on the spot, but during the Q&A they were equally in the moment, and Delpy came across as completely natural, open, honest—as un-movie-star-like as only a handful of movie stars I’ve ever known or encountered in person have been.

I fell in love with her right there, the way I do, and maybe you, with people I don’t really know, but feel I do from the art they create.

So when I saw that she had not only written, and starred in, but directed, edited and composed the music for a new film, 2 DAYS IN PARIS, I couldn’t wait to see it. Before I could though, I saw some reviews that claimed she was derivative of Woody Allen and/or disparaged the film for being too nasty or too long or too self-indulgent, etc.

But I wasn’t worried. I’d seen already that she wasn’t afraid to take chances, to expose herself, not in the usual sexy movie star way, but in the unusual truthfully human way, with all the faults that implies. Something most people are too afraid to do.

Talk about being pleasantly proved correct. I know we all have our own taste that’s influenced by our personal histories and beliefs etc., but how any film critic could not be elated by the appearance in the film world of a new filmmaker with Delpy’s obvious gifts is beyond me.

Not only has she created one of the most honest depictions of a relationship I’ve ever seen in a film—including using shots that show the natural wrinkles in her forehead, or are unflattering to her figure in ways no Hollywood star would ever allow, but which make the worries of a real woman her age expressed in the film all the more real and poignant—but the dialogue is so fast and witty and contemporary, it’s as if one of the old screwball comedies of the 1940s had been translated into contemporary terms. Exactly what so many critics have been lamenting they’re missing, and then they miss this!

I not only highly recommend your seeing it, I predict you’ll want to see it more than once. It’s an instant classic. And if you agree with some of the critics and don’t dig it, then my guess is you’re in denial about your own reality.

Or maybe it’s just a matter of taste.


Nick Piombino said...

Thanks for your insider view of this completely enjoyable, witty, brilliant film. I am surprised you didn't mention Delpy's political torpedos presented as off-the-cuff asides to minor characters like cab drivers and ex-lovers she runs into by chance in restaurants concerning such issues as racism and child prostitution. What would you think of Delpy partnering up on a film project with George Clooney and Soderburgh?

Lally said...

Nick, Yeah, most critics got into that aspect of the film, some didn't like it. I wanted to concentrate on equally brave elements of the film that I haven't seen anyone talking about as much, if at all. The fact is, if a cool young man, or an intellectually acclaimed older one, had written, directed, starred in, composed the music for, edited and produced this movie, critics would be genuflecting at their feet and hailing the arrival of the savior of the future of filmdom. Instead, some of them declare her derivative of Woody Allen, as if he did all that. He and Clint, and a handful of others, do a lot of those things on their flicks, but never have done all of that. The closest we have to Delpy in movie history is Charlie Chaplin, the original genuis, who also took on many of the same targets for his humor and political barbs, etc.