Words don’t fail Delpy in her filmmaking debut
November 30, 2007
“2 Days in Paris,” the first major film written and directed by Julie Delpy, reveals what Delpy, the actress best known for the movies “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset,” likes about filmmaking. It’s dialogue ” talking, words, communication, the script. “2 Days in Paris” is as densely filled with words as possible. In those rare moments when a character is not engaged in conversation, he’s speaking to himself, or looking at a text message, or running into a stranger with whom he can exchange some more words. And yes, the film also features a voice-over narration, to fill in the unspoken thoughts going through the head of Delpy’s own character, Marion.
This talk style is used effectively, however, and “2 Days in Paris” is no mere chat-fest. Delpy’s Marion and her boyfriend Jack are both high-strung sorts who use their words not to elucidate ideas, mainly, but as release valves. Virtually everything they say is filled with emotion. It can be wearying, yes, but not boring. The range of the dueling voices helps: Adam Goldberg gives Jack a classic neurotic Jewish tone ” think mid-’70s Woody Allen. The French-born Delpy has a more romantic, c’est la vie aspect to her voice. And as a director, Delpy has a manic style that fits the characters. When one scene ends, the camera doesn’t linger around to let the viewer chew on what has taken place. It’s on to the next scene. And the next round of dialogue.
Most of what gets said in “2 Days in Paris,” intentionally or not, gets under the skin of the person to whom the words are addressed. New Yorkers Marion and Jack have been on vacation in Venice and are stopping in Paris on the way home to see Marion’s parents and visit Marion’s hometown. The parents only draw out the natural level of anger and anxiety that would come out of Jack anyway. What really rankles is the revelation that Marion had a promiscuous past. To Jack, she has kept quiet about it, but walking the streets of Paris, ex-lovers pop up everywhere, and Marion is not inclined to let the past stay in the past. Jack sees this as another reason to dislike the city: Keeping ties to old romances he sees as the French way.
The wordiness of “2 Days in Paris” eventually bolsters the foundation of the film. Love is a construct that we build, and it can be brought down in an instant. Look at Marion and Jack: We can’t tell if they are the model couple, constantly moving through their issues, or an explosion about to happen, with a bottomless keg of issues. The only thing that keeps our romances going is the words we use to fuel them.
Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org