Tag: julie delpy

2 Days in New York


2 Days in New York (2012)
★★ / ★★★★

Mingus (Chris Rock) and Marion (Julie Delpy) live together in a New York City apartment with their children from previous relationships. Mingus is a writer and talk-radio host and Marion is an artist and they consider themselves to have a pretty stable life. However, their current state of equilibrium is disrupted when Marion’s father, Jeannot (Albert Delpy), and sister, Rose (Alexia Landeau), come to visit and offer their support for the biggest art exhibit Marion’s has had in years. It doesn’t make it any better that Rose decides to bring her current boyfriend, Manu (Alexandre Nahon), who, like Rose, is a slave to his impulses.

“2 Days in New York,” based on the screenplay by Julie Delpy and Alexia Landeau, begins with great comic timing in that it seems willing to take advantage of the fact that its lead actors know how to handle fast-paced dialogue without losing track that they constantly need to exude charm so the audience can overlook their more unlikable eccentricities while at the same time delivering proper dosages of irony so the material can function as a character study. Unfortunately, it drops the ball somewhere before Marion’s big night as it sacrifices the awkward but believable chuckles for drama that feels forced, draining, and not at all funny.

When the film is unafraid to explore potentially offensive issues, it is exciting to watch because it feels open to possibilities. The issue of Marion and Mingus being an interracial couple is touched upon but I felt at times that it could have pushed the envelope a little further. Most of its humor involves the African-American character being weirded out by the visiting white French relatives because of their habits like being quick to offer an opinion when not asked, being very open when it comes to talking about sex, and being unafraid to be physical with one another. The rapid-fire discoveries that Mingus finds himself in the middle of is a great source of amusement. However, the French relatives aren’t given equal chance to show their reactions when they think that something about the African-American culture is strange. I felt slightly annoyed when I noticed the picture holding back the blows when it is the other way around. Isn’t the point to show that everyone can’t help but judge?

While the marital struggle between Marion and Mingus is engaging initially, it becomes a victim of diminishing returns. This can be attributed to the screenplay attempting to make its characters less aware than they really are for the sake of the mechanisms in the plot. It is obvious that Mingus and Marion are smart people very early on. It is unusual—and extremely frustrating—that they are unable to reason and act like responsible adults when things turn critical. The childish behaviors that make the second half feel so contrived do not match the original characteristics of the couple.

Directed by Julie Delpy, “2 Days in New York” might have been stronger if it had turned more inwards, working through the intricate details of the drama in order for the comedic punches, once they arrive, to have more impact, instead of being too showy with its influences. For a work that is supposed to reflect reality, about half of it comes across as disingenuous.

Before Midnight


Before Midnight (2013)
★★★★ / ★★★★

One would think that by stripping away some of the elements I admired most from its predecessors, “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset,” director Richard Linklater’s sublime portrait of two souls who met eighteen years ago would be less palatable. On the contrary, one might argue that “Before Midnight” is the most confident of them all, certainly the most mature, because it is able to break away from the expected and deliver more rewarding elements about the characters who we believe we already know.

An extensive fluid shot of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) strolling around a breathtaking European city while philosophizing, jesting, and yearning are gone. Instead, the picture is divided into five pieces: the airport, the ride to the market, the early dinner with their host and some friends, the walk to the hotel, and the big fight. Each scene builds on top of one another, the whole day of trial culminating in the last five minutes. When the camera begins to pull away from the couple, I knew it would not happen but I wished anyway that it would stay—even for only a minute more.

This is a work made for people who love to look at faces and carefully consider the thoughts behind them. Right away, we are thrusted into the mindset of Jesse as he fears that he is missing out on a lot by not always being around his son, Hank (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick), who spent the summer with Jesse and Céline in Greece. He expresses his frustration—regarding the difficult situation with his ex-wife in Chicago mixed with the sadness and feelings of helplessness he harbors—by telling Céline that his son cannot even throw a baseball properly. Though the material is, on the surface, driven by words, the looks the characters give one another or us having the chance to catch a certain sparkle in their eyes when no one is looking at or paying attention to them convey a whole lot.

Céline and Jesse no longer look fresh. They once looked so ready to take on the world; now it seems as though they just want to avoid grasping at each other’s throats. I suspect the minute subtleties of the problems that they have in their marriage are lost on me for the time being, given where I am in my life currently, but the screenplay does an excellent job pulling in those of us who do not have a spouse and allowing us to consider how we might feel if our partner, for example, says something we do not want to hear or fail to say something—anything—when it counts most. The great thing about the story is that we know it began with friendship and so there is a history there we can grab onto.

The argument in the hotel room is one I will remember. When characters in the movies get into an argument, it comes off fake a lot of the time. Here, I felt like I was strapped in an uncomfortable chair in that room—problematic because when people argue, I like to leave when I am not involved. Jesse and Céline saying so many mean, unfair, accurate things toward one another took me back in time—back when I was a kid and I did not have yet the sense to walk away from a space of increasing negativity—times when my parents would start screaming at each other for whatever reason. I felt scared for Jesse and Céline’s relationship. I felt sad that for them because I sensed that the two of them constantly being around one another is an uphill battle. I wondered if they have come to the finish line. Or maybe they are just having a really bad day. I certainly hope so.

Before Sunset


Before Sunset (2004)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Jesse (Ethan Hawke) is in Paris for the last stop of his book tour. As he is interviewed by reporters about his recently published novel and a possible plot for his next project, he notices Céline (Julie Delpy) standing a couple of feet to his right, the woman he met in the summer of ’94, the very person his book is based on. After the interview, Jesse approaches and invites his old friend for a cup of coffee. She happily accepts. In less than two hours, Jesse is due at the airport for his flight back to America.

Not one kiss is shared, not even a whiff of a sex scene, just a hug between a man and a woman who met in Vienna nine years ago and “Before Sunset” cements itself as a small but quintessential film about love, romance, friendship. It is appropriate that it is a more mature work than its predecessor, “Before Sunrise,” because its characters have grown a little older. Gone are their youthful verve and their willingness to impress but their yearning to find meaning in life remains.

Most immediately noticeable is Jesse and Céline dressing differently, less casual and more professional. They have jobs, they are in their own respective relationships, and they are no longer in school. It is easier for them to establish eye contact. Their hand gestures are more confident, used to draw someone in rather than to distract or to hide an insecurity. And yet without noticing how different the characters are compared to when they met as young, idealistic twenty-somethings, the film still works.

I should know. I saw “Before Sunset” for the first time without any knowledge of “Before Sunrise,” in high school, back when people still had to drive (or walk–as I did, rain or shine) to Blockbuster to rent movies and Wikipedia was not yet a common term. I was captivated. A movie that consists of two people holding a conversation for its entire duration was a novelty to me. No, I had not yet heard of “My Dinner with Andre” directed by Louis Malle.

The camera moves fluidly, matching the stream of consciousness nature of Céline and Jesse’s exchanges. They walk around Paris, giving the illusion that everything is happening of the moment, the background moving and changing with each step and corner they take. Most of the shots are from the waist up, a perfect middle-ground for capturing body language and facial expressions on an intimate level. They joke, they reminisce, they fight. There are times when the camera is placed from behind, welcoming a different place to be visited, a whole new arena for chatting about a multitude of topics.

The issues they talk about are bigger than themselves. While they have a tendency to philosophize at times, more emphasis is placed on different parts of the world, genuine problems like certain countries not having enough clean water for people to drink and a group of people looking for ways to transport pencils to a school a few miles away so children can get an education.They discuss Buddhism, marriage, as well as current and past relationships. They are full of contradictions and flaws which make them fascinating.

Some people think that the ending is sad because there is a suggestion that they may not end up together. To me, it is neither sad nor happy. It is… optimistic. The film ends with the two of them being in the same room, sharing something intimate and beautiful. Céline shares her apartment and talent in music. Meanwhile, Jesse is in complete captivation of her, the woman who got away. Just minutes prior, Jesse talks about his wife in the most generic way–“smart,” “a good mother.” We get the feeling that he does not look at his wife the way he looks at the French woman in front of him, dancing to a song by Nina Simone.

Before Sunrise


Before Sunrise (1995)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Céline (Julie Delpy), on her way to Paris for school, sits across the aisle from a German couple whose argument is quickly escalating to an explosion so, for her own safety, she decides to get up and move toward the back of the train. She finds an empty seat across Jesse (Ethan Hawke), an American on his way to Vienna. They strike a conversation, feel an almost immediate connection, and so they move to the lounge to share food, philosophies, and stories. Before they knew it, the train has arrived in Vienna but Jesse persuades Celine to get off the train with him, explore the city, and spend a few more hours together before his flight to America.

Romance pictures without glitz and glamour, unnecessary plot complications like mistaken identities, and a denouement that relies on the big question of whether the central couple will end up together after being torn apart for so long–sometimes more than once–are especially difficult to pull off. Compound it with a screenplay that focuses on two people sharing an extended conversation, “Before Sunrise,” written by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan, proves to be a rarity. It is romantic and introspective but it leaves enough room to expand and challenge its characters’ life philosophies and perspectives–as well as our own. Though we do not speak to them, we are a part of their conversation.

The interaction between Céline and Jesse feels natural but the evolution in their mannerisms toward one another are not always obvious especially when one is comfortably ensconced in their words. A few minutes upon their meeting, Céline and Jesse do a lot of looking down, like many of us tend to do while trying to get familiar with a stranger, and using their hands as a way to relieve tension in their bodies and perhaps to distract the listener from analyzing the speaker’s words and point of view. In direct contrast after they have spoken to each other for hours, they tend to lean into each other more often as if to listen a little bit more closely, their hands not used to distract but to grab or caress, their eyes dare to be looked into rather than to be avoided.

The more Jesse and Céline get to know one another, the more we know them. Though Jesse may not be aware of it, Céline has courteous laugh which she often employs when he tries too hard to be funny or witty. Delpy commands attention when she smiles: some smiles are genuine and others are forced. We wonder what she really thinks about this guy who hopes so badly to impress her. On the other hand, there are instances when Jesse has the tendency to just nod in agreement at some of Céline’s points just so he can get a chance to speak and get to his two cents–sometimes a pseudo-intellectual idea and other times an idea that is actually worth rumination. We wonder about the extent in which he has fallen for her.

Vienna is a character, too. Just as Jesse and Céline adapt to each other’s responses, they are required to acclimatize to the city. When it gets too hot on the bus, a jacket is taken off mid-conversation. When the hustle and hustle of downtown gets too loud, their voices must be raised. When a stranger approaches them, they must choose whether to entertain or keep walking. When the camera offers shots of other people talking to one another, in a foreign language sans subtitles, we wonder if their conversations are as engaging.

Directed by Richard Linklater, although I have seen “Before Sunrise” more than half a dozen times, what I remember most are not the quaint places they visit or colorful people they encounter, but the feelings and the images that the characters paint using their words. Just when I think I am more like Céline, Jesse admits to how he still feels like a thirteen-year-old boy who does not know how to be an adult. He has to pretend that he does. I have similar feelings and he says it with a mixture of pride and sorrow. Though others lose the feeling of how it was like to be young, people like Jesse and I will always be wondering–sometimes in an insecure way–if we are mature enough for a situation or a relationship.

And then Jesse goes on to talk about seeing his grandmother’s ghost through a rainbow when he was a kid. What a beautiful mental image: you, the living, on one side; a loved one who has passed away, the dead, on the other side; and the rainbow, a transient demarcation, a portal to another universe.

Europa Europa


Europa Europa (1990)
★★★ / ★★★★

Based on true events experienced by Solomon Perel (Marco Hofschneider) in World War II, “Hitlerjunge Salomon,” directed by Agnieszka Holland, was about the teenager’s plight in taking many identities in hopes of surviving and being reunited with his family. Solomon was Jewish but he had Aryan features. He also knew multiple languages which proved to be an advantage when he was separated from his brother (René Hofschneider) while trying to escape from both the Russians and the Germans. Initially, he ended up in a communist orphanage, then the battlefield, up until he joined the Hitler Youth where he was trained to hate his kind and those that didn’t belong in the “elite race.” Watching this picture was quite an experience because it was probably the first movie I’ve seen where I was taken in a Hitler Youth classroom and had a chance to observe how the brainwashing worked. It was maddening but at the same time fascinating because of the way the Nazis shaped a small fear and applied that fear to every aspect that they believed wasn’t worthy. I also got to see how that fear turned into anger and anger into hatred. I hated how the teachers used so-called science to justify who, essentially, deserved to die. For instance, one of the scenes that stood out to me was when Solomon (now named Josef Peters) was called in front of the classroom and his head was measured from various angles and how far apart his features were from one another. When the film focused on the details, it was at its best because I couldn’t stop thinking about small elements afterwards. Furthermore, I’m glad that the film didn’t paint all Germans as monsters. In each location he ended up in, our protagonist met at least one person who made a difference in his life. One was a closeted gay soldier (André Wilms) who had a crush on Solomon and eventually found out that Solomon was Jewish but didn’t turn him in. Another was a mother (Halina Labonarska) of girl Solomon really liked who was stuck with a daughter (Julie Delpy) so consumed with hatred and trying to impress her leader. In a way, those two also had to hide who they really were and how they felt about the Nazi occupation. However, the film’s first half verged on heavy-handedness. It needed to trim some scenes because we all know that the Holocaust was one of the darkest times in history. What the movie should have done was immediately focus on Solomon’s personal journey and less generalizations. Nevertheless, “Hitlerjunge Salomon,” also known as “Hitler Youth Salomon” and “Europa Europa,” had a strong sense of momentum once it found its footing. The scene that summed up the film best was when Solomon sat in a comfortable Nazi vehicle, peered through a heavily stained window and saw the horrible things that happened to his people. He saw the dead and wondered whether his family was there. Solomon had to stop himself from breaking down because he might be caught as a sympathizer, or worse, a Jew.

Broken Flowers


Broken Flowers (2005)
★★ / ★★★★

It all started with a pink letter from an old flame with a message written in red that Don Johnston (Bill Murray) is a father of a nineteen-year-old boy. Don, having been dumped by his most recent girlfriend (Julie Delpy), is serious about finding the mother of his son so he makes a list of his former lovers and visits them across America. I liked the premise of the film but the execution was a bit weak for me. I thought the set-up of the story went for too long: the scenes with Jeffrey Wright as Don’s friend who’s enthusiastic about everything may be amusing once in a while but most of their scenes together did not really contribute to the big picture. When Murray finally met the various women in his life (Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton), the picture only spent about five minutes for the characters to interact. Five minutes would have worked with a more efficient director or writing but this film needed an extra ten or fifteen minutes with each women. It simply wasn’t enough and was somewhat unforgivable because I thought that the movie was supposed to be about a man who realized how much he missed out on these women and why he was now a lonely aging guy with no wife and child. Those intermissions after he met each women which consisted of driving around and sleeping could have instead been used to explore his former relationships and why some of them were very unhappy when they saw him. It was such a shame because the actresses featured are very talented and they really could’ve elevated this film to a new level. Instead, I felt that it was ashamed to explore the underlying emotions and would rather take the route of dry comedy with too many coincidences and potential explanations. Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, if it weren’t for Murray’s performance, I would’ve been more critical of this film because it was borderline pretentious about the journey of a lonely man. Those little character quirks such as the lead character’s desperation to find anything pink that might give him a clue to who was the one who sent him the letter took me out of the experience. A similar storyline reminded me of Adam Brooks’ “Definitely, Maybe” only that picture was a lot more fun to watch because it had small payoffs throughout even though it was a more typical Hollywood fare. I say see it for Murray because he really does nail characters who says a thousand words with silence and glances. If only the material was able to match his talent.

Waking Life


Waking Life (2001)
★★★ / ★★★★

Written and directed by Richard Linklater (“Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset”), “Waking Life” is an animated film that tackles deep questions about what life is and how it is like to live one’s life. Although it is essentially an animated film, it is very adult in its approach to tell a story of a guy (Wiley Wiggins) who “wakes up” in his dream and into other dreams without knowing whether he’s conscious or awake in “real life.” I admired that this film actively does not confine itself into the kind of Hollywood filmmaking where there is a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Just like the look of the picture, the story flows and moves like water, which enhances the film’s overall craft because the issues that it tackles are very abstract. And it also helped because the main character is in a dream. I particularly liked the scene when Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprise their characters from “Before Sunrise” and had a deeper conversation about what was said in that movie. It really made me think about why, when we dream, time feels endless but in actuality we’ve slept for a very limited amount of time. That constant theme of there having to be something more to life than rules and meaning is explored in such a deep and intellectual way to the point where I found myself struggling to keep up because I wanted to savor the conversations. While I admit that I did not fully understand some of the concepts that they discussed and the names they dropped, it made me want to read up on such topics and people that are unfamiliar. This is a thinking man’s movie and definitely not for people who constantly have to have action scenes thrown at them. The power of this unique-looking film lies in the words and the exaggerated, almost expressionistic, images to highlight the transient meanings of the implications. My only main problem with it is that I felt as though part of the last third somewhat felt apart because it did not fully integrate some of the biggest themes that pervaded the rest of the movie. Still, I’m going to give “Waking Life” a recommendation because it was able to incite various insights on how to communicate and see (or feel?) the world in unfamiliar and not fully explained perspectives.