French writer-actress-songbird Julie Delpy has probably been associated most with American film, and not only for her “Before Sunset” Oscar nomination in 2005 (for co-screenwriting!). Still, she is French, so it could be argued that having a bicultural identity has allowed her a more objective view of how both countries and their citizens can misbehave and act cruel. Adding to her list of hyphenates, Delpy the feature director and editor also co-stars in “2 Days in Paris,” a self-described “mean-spirited” relationship comedy that addresses said observations on modern-day culture clashes of the social, political, age and gender varieties. Adam Goldberg ever-neurotically stars as jaded New York designer Jack, who has just had a lousy Venice getaway with his photog girlfriend Marion (Delpy). On the way home, they’re stopping off in the titular city for said duration, an attempted vacation corrective and couples rekindling that invariably makes them crazier, crankier and more jealous. It’s not as “Before Sunset” as the title might seem, since language barriers, overbearing folks, flirty ex-beaus and other annoyances turn what might’ve been “Meet the Fockers” into a biting bicker-fest of the Woody Allen variety. And of course, it’s political. Considering that two of Delpy’s early screen roles were in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Détective” and “King Lear,” it’s not surprising that her first narrative feature would be filled with thinly disguised references to her personal beliefs.
Before the interview, you seemed surprised that all of your film’s publicists were women. Are there major differences in how a film is promoted in America compared to Europe?
It’s actually quite similar in France, though when you do a TV show, you’re terrified because the host might insult you. It’s in fashion right now that the host, to make the show cool, will trash you to the ground. I go to shows in France literally shaking in terror, and I’m never scared of anything like that because people are usually civilized, even if they don’t like the film. I’m not even scared of criticism, but when they lash at you, it’s terrifying. I’m always lucky somehow, but it’s happened to a lot of other artists. It’s publicity for their work, so I guess it’s worth it. But if I knew someone was going to say horrible things to me, I wouldn’t go. I have to say that in America, journalists are nicer and more respectful. They can be in France, but some are not always nice. Like the French, they’re not very nice people in general. [laughs] I actually love France. It is my country of birth, it’s a lot of fun, and even when people are grumpy, it makes me laugh.
Certainly nobody is safe from being ridiculed in your film.
No! Men, women, Americans, French — they all get it. I don’t hate the French or Americans or men or women. I’m not really angry at people, but I think it’s funny when people are mean to one another. [laughs] I think the beginning of the film sets the tone. [Jack is] an American sending other Americans to the suburbs just to get ahead of the taxi line. It doesn’t mean they’re bad because, in the end, I still like the people that I’m describing, even though they’re not very nice. Marion is crazy, hysterical, lashing at people. And Jack is neurotic and obnoxious in so many ways. The parents are obnoxious, too. The sister is a bitch, but I love her. I’m just describing them in all their flaws.
Where were you living when anti-French sentiments were in the air, circa 2003?
I was in California, so “freedom fries” were not a big hit. California has a lot of liberal people and most Americans I knew were embarrassed: “Oh my god, this is horrifying!” But it’s not one America or France. It’s important to be reminded of that all the time. I wasn’t embarrassed or shocked, more amused.
You express some of that amusement by making political jabs throughout the film. Not to oversimplify, but is it twice as hard to get your film out there in a polarized sociopolitical climate?
I can’t help it. For me, it’s important because I have [personal beliefs] in my life. So why not put them in the movie? Right away, I’m pretty clear where I stand. I face the same problems in France. The French distributors were horrified by the racist taxi driver scene and the ex-boyfriend pedophile; [it was] ex-colonial mentality. They wanted me to cut it out because it’s too offensive to the French, “it’ll never work here,” people will get upset, blah blah. Some journalists were offended, but most people didn’t mind because it’s a reality. It’s not a lie. If you don’t want to show the truth, that’s problematic if you can’t express that in movies.
For a lot of films here, you have to respect all demographics and you don’t want to offend anyone. You just want to get as many people as you can to go to the movies, but I think that’s bullshit. For example, 9/11 movies. Some people will not like those films and will not go see them. So what? 50 million people could still potentially see these films. Mine is the same. It’s liberal-friendly, though I know Republicans who saw the film and liked it. They’re conservative, but they think Bush has made huge mistakes throughout his entire time in power. So it depends, but I don’t think it’s [for] hardcore Bush supporters. And it’s not even a liberal movie because it makes fun of everyone, you know what I mean? I tried to make a movie [in which] I was free to express whatever I wanted. Because it was such a small budget, I was allowed to talk about subject matters that I don’t see in other films. I want to say things in a way that can be kind of crude. “It is a blowjob that brought down America’s last chance at a healthy democracy” is a crude line, but it might be true.