Delpy’s Debut


French Actress Helms Clever Romantic Comedy,’2 Days in Paris’

The Washington Diplomat had the pleasure of interviewing charming French writer-director-actress Julie Delpy before the D.C. premiere of her directorial debut, “2 Days in Paris,” in front of a packed crowd at the Embassy of France.

Even though she had gone to film school at New York University, the occasion marked her first visit to Washington. “I took a picture in front of the White House. I had a little demonstration—on my own. I’m not going to say. It’s a secret,” she hinted.

After having already established a successful acting career, Delpy decided to go to film school. She was encouraged by Krzysztof Kieslowski, a graduate of the famous Lodz Film School, who directed her in “Three Colors: White.” She noted: “I also made shorts outside of NYU. I made experimental films, all sorts of things, which actually taught me to edit and do everything by myself—films with no money at all.”

“2 Days in Paris” is the first feature for which she’s been able to raise financing. She speculated that was due in part to the type of film she was directing. “It seems like a romantic comedy kind of reassures people into giving me money. It seems like it’s easier to get money if you’re a woman and it’s about a relationship—like it reassures people that we know what we’re talking about. Like we do,” she joked. “I have no idea what a relationship is!”

I pointed out that the neurotic characters and dialogue in “2 Days” are reminiscent of Woody Allen, a favorite of Delpy. She responded: “You know, when I prepared the film, I didn’t watch one Woody Allen film. I know Woody Allen… I was watching a lot of older films like [Ernst] Lubitsch, or films where people talked very fast—like comedies in the ’30s, Katharine Hepburn—just to see a variety of things. “You know how the mind works: It’s all about connecting the dots and making comparisons. My way of connecting things is completely wrong,” she explained. “I would watch ‘Day of Wrath’—a Carl Dreyer film—to inspire myself for my film. And they have nothing to do [with each other], but to me there’s a connection in a way.

“And ‘Voyage to Italia’—the film about a couple, a very dark but beautiful [Roberto] Rossellini film. I was watching that film over and over,” she added. “It doesn’t really make sense. It does [make sense] to me, but for everybody else it doesn’t.”

‘Molière’ Director on Mistakes

On tour to promote his smash biopic “Molière,” French writer-director Laurent Tirard sat down to chat with The Washington Diplomat. He’s no stranger to the United States, being a graduate of the film school at New York University.

“I was 18. I was leaving home to go to another country,” he recalled. “It was New York. It wasn’t like going to … I don’t know … Houston.” I interjected: “I grew up in Houston.” Tirard sheepishly apologized. “Oops, sorry. I’ve never been to Houston, so I really don’t know.”

He continued: “I grew up in a small town outside of Paris. Whenever I would tell people that I wanted to make movies, they looked at me like … they didn’t think I was serious, that I really wanted to do that or that I ever could. People from our town didn’t make movies.

“Finally, to be in a school where everyone else wanted to do the same thing, it felt normal to be wanting to make movies. Before that, I felt very marginal where I lived. Finally, I found my family,” he said.

“The one good thing about going to film school is that it allows you to experiment a lot and make mistakes. Even in the worst-case scenario, if you fail all your classes and don’t get a diploma, it really doesn’t matter. I would never tell my parents that. I make films today. No one has ever asked me for my diploma from film school. It doesn’t matter at all.”

However, because his parents were spending a lot of money on his film school education, “I felt I had to get my diploma and get good grades. I probably hadn’t experimented as much as I should have. That’s my one regret. The kind of films that I’d made all had a beginning, middle and an end. All the shots were very well composed, exactly the way I’d been taught,” the director explained.

“Whenever I talk to young students, I say, ‘Experiment. Make mistakes. It doesn’t matter at all.’ In the real world, if you do make mistakes, the consequences can be pretty punishing.

“Every time that there’s been a revolution in cinema, it’s because someone broke a rule. A jump-cut was a mistake in cinema before Jean-Luc Godard. Then he showed what you could accomplish through jump-cuts,” Tirard added. “The teachers teach you the rules. You have to try to break them to see what happens. Sometimes, you find something that works. That will allow you really to find your voice as a filmmaker.”

About the Author

Ky N. Nguyen is the film reviewer for The Washington Diplomat.