2 Days in Paris, 96 mins, rated tba, opening in cinemas 26 December 2007


(This is my review as  published in the December 2007 issue of The New South Wales Law Society Journal)

Sometimes it is best to see a film knowing very little about it. With 2 Days in Paris, all I really knew was that it was directed by French actress, Julie Delpy. I remembered her from Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy of films (1993-4), and from Richard Linklater’s films Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004).

What I didn’t know was that as well as directing and starring in 2 Days in Paris, Delpy also wrote, produced and edited it, composed the score, sang at least one song, and cast her real-life parents as her parents in the film. She must be exhausted – though there are precedents. Orson Welles, Clint Eastwood and Charlie Chaplin are similar polymaths (Orson Welles arranged the music for a couple of his films and Chaplin and Eastwood regularly composed all their films’ music). That’s exalted company.

So as this film began, and I realised that Delpy would be everywhere in it, my heart sank, thinking this would be the ultimate vanity project.

I needn’t have worried. After a slightly pretentious start the film finds its feet, sets its tone and we are off at a rollicking pace, tracing the relationship of a pair of lovers spending 2 eventful and revealing days in Paris.

Delpy has made a movie that is both funny and clever. As it begins, the lovers Marion and Jack (Delpy and Adam Goldberg) have just had a holiday in Venice that was intended to be romantic, but ended up disastrous. And no wonder: Jack is a very annoying character, a hypochondriac whinger. He’s also a conundrum. He’s a hairy, tattooed New Yorker – and an interior designer.

The couple have decided to visit Paris for 2 days, and to stay with Marion’s parents, hilariously played by Marie Pillet as an aged ex-hippy groupie who’s now obsessed with cooking and cleaning, and Albert Delpy as an gruff and earthy art-gallery owner whose art is all pornographic. All the performances are wonderful and the dialogue is often laugh-out-loud funny. At times it’s as if Woody Allen and Diane Keaton went to Paris, but Delpy can’t decide if she’s Woody or Diane. Either way it’s very funny.

The film also explores serious issues: we may think we know someone, but not know them at all. We may find – as Jack does with Marion’s prior, numerous and varied Parisian lovers – that we don’t want to know them that way. Then what do we do?

2 Days in Paris is no Amelie. The Paris we see is not romanticised. This Paris is populated by users, snobs, sex-deviants and racists. Racism is an especially sore point with the French. Their colonial history is not covered in glory, and they are still dealing with the consequences. In one scene a cabdriver recites a litany of racist abuse and Marion takes him on fully and gloriously. It’s an amusing scene with a very hard edge. In another scene, Jack is nearly arrested for purse snatching, merely because he has olive-skin and a lot of dark hair. In fact, nearly everyone marks him as either a Jew or a Muslim.

The film suffers from some beginner-type errors, mostly in the first few minutes. For example, Delpy moves the camera to accord with the narration. When the narrator says “up” the camera goes up, and it’s annoying. There’s a whole backstory about Marion having very restricted eyesight, which affects her view of the world. Yet Marion is a professional photographer, and her eyesight never seems to restrict her actions. Also, while Goldberg is a talented comedic actor, his hairiness and extensive tattoos are so distracting that I found it hard to believe him as an interior designer. Goldberg and Delpy were once lovers in real life, so perhaps she didn’t see these as distractions.

If you have read my review before seeing 2 Days in Paris, you will not see the film as I did, knowing little about it. But I hope that you agree that this film is about as far as you can get from a vanity project. It’s the work of multi-talented artist and budding auteur.