“But what I really want to do is direct.” The
knee-jerk response is to eye-roll when an actor trots out this ancient refrain,
vanguard of amateurish vanity projects that it is. But when Julie Delpy settled
into the director’s chair in 2007 for her first feature “2
Days in Paris,” she was far from a dilettante giving a new challenge a quick
dabble. She had already received an informal crash course in her collaborations
with some of the most esteemed directors Europe had to offer, including the
likes of Krzysztof Kieślowski, Leos Carax and Agnieszka
Holland, before making the jump to Hollywood and her fruitful partnership with
But a minute’s worth of conversation clearly
communicates that she’s been interrogating the inner
workings of weighty art her entire life, making her shift to direction a
natural progression for someone with an insatiable creative curiosity.
Her latest feature, the sex comedy “Lolo,” has
the self-assurance and authority of a seasoned cineaste. Delpy takes on the
lead role, a single mother warming up to a simple but sweet bank-tech designer
(Dany Boon) much to the chagrin of her extremely possessive twentysomething son
Lolo (Vincent Lacoste). The viciously funny comedy then barrels into an all-out
prank war as Lolo attempts to gaslight his mother through elaborate deceptions
into ditching this bothersome interloper.
Indiewire got the chance to sit down
with Delpy to chat about Freudian sex jokes, the key difference between the French
and English languages, and why dating really gets good after 40.
What are some of the benefits and challenges of directing yourself in a film?
Well, the challenge is that it’s a lot of work, a
lot of energy put into it because you’re doing it all. It’s
stressful, but the upside to it is that you become the locomotive of the scene.
You drive with the other actors, obviously, but you can drive the scene to a
certain extent and give it its own specific tone.
Has directing features given you any new perspective on
I learn from every film, even when I shoot with other people. I
learn every time I make a film, work with an actor or with a different
director of photography.
From “Lolo,” learned to delegate a little more. All my films, I had to do the music, you
know — I couldn’t let go of certain things. I always
used to do everything, when I did my first film, I did everything, music,
editing. Not all alone, during the shoot I had wonderful actors and crew, but
in postproduction, that was a lot to do. It was heavy on me. I get used to
doing that, being the person who ends up doing everything. So, to learn to
delegate is great as a filmmaker, or else you go out of your mind. It’s
a positive thing. I delegated the music on this film for the first time. I
found a wonderful young composer, Mathieu Lamboley — French,
as you can tell.
“Lolo” addresses adult female
sexuality with a frankness you don’t usually see in films. Was your taking on this project a
pushback on that, like an effort to put something out into the world that’s in short supply?
I hadn’t thought about that so much, because
I don’t know everything about other films. I can’t
see everything, I guess I didn’t know that’s in short supply.
I thought it was funny to show women in their forties who have sort of
de-sacred-ized sex, not like in your twenties when you have a romantic, almost
mystical approach to sex and love. I think they’re past that,
though they can still be in love. If you have a sense of humor on sex, it doesn’t
mean you can’t be in love. It’s a bit more complex than that. It was
very fun to write all that dialogue. For me, just pure fun.
Were those your favorite to shoot during the film?
Yes, but I have to say, I also really liked having fun with the
mischievous evil child. It always amuses me when characters are being really
bad and evil and wrong, with this dark side.
Why do you think children often feel threatened when their
parents start seeing someone new?
Depending on the children, some children are very happy to have
someone new in the family. I’m thinking of my own self, my son is
absolutely welcoming. My life is almost the opposite of “Lolo.” It’s
so far removed, couldn’t be further from my personal life, so
that’s great for me. Some children want to be the center, and
when they’re not, they feel threatened. Lolo never grew up, he’s
still stuck in the stage where he’s drinking the milk from his mother.
You know, he’s still eating her eggs, all those little Freudian
references, with the lollipops, walking around in his briefs, baby stuff. He’s
still a six-year-old, a five-year-old.
Do you think the story of “Lolo” is
something you could do more freely and comfortably while working in the French
film industry, rather than Hollywood?
I didn’t think about that so much, because I
really wanted to do a French film, but at the same time, a French film that
would appeal to not just French people. Maybe because I have friends from all
over the world, my sense of humor is not limited to France. I like to make my
American friends laugh, South American friends laugh.
Is there a difference between the French sense of humor and
any other nation’s?
Yes, there are a few differences. I think the French language has
something a little more playful about it, that the English language doesn’t
always have. I know the French language, and the slang in France is not as
harsh, and so sometimes the translation kind of shocks you. In the subtitle, I
saw a few things where I thought, ‘Ah, I could’ve fixed that, that’s
not exactly what I wanted to say.’ When people don’t laugh at a line,
I realized it’s because it’s not exactly the right wording. I don’t
think it’s so much a cultural thing, maybe just because translation
doesn’t quite work in just the perfect way.
life, you can’t have everything. It’s little things.
You can have very dirty language in France, but it’s still kind of
poetic. There’s this author I love called Georges Batailles, he wrote a
lot of stuff that’s very dark, even pornographic, but it’s
never actually gross in the original French, and can be kind of too harsh in
English for me. English language is a tiny bit harsher than French to me.
French is a little cuter, there’s something a little sweeter to it.
What can you do? There’s nothing you can do about it.
How does the process of courtship change after forty, or after
a first marriage, or when there’s
a child in the mix?
In your forties, you know what you like and want a little more.
You’re clear on what you don’t want, and when
you don’t want something, you just won’t go there, it’s
not gonna happen. Especially when you have a kid, you’re very careful in
picking someone, you don’t want to mess up the kid. For me at
least, as a mother, my kids come first. I’m married, so I can’t
really talk about how courtship works, because it’s been a while.
Your character isn’t entirely sympathetic; she makes fun of Jean-Rene when she
talks about him to her friend, looks down on him because of his background,
what-have-you. How were you able to hold onto the negative aspects of her
personality while also keeping her accessible to an audience?
You know, she’s not perfect. She’s
a human being. Is everyone always nice? Is everyone always kind? Everyone loses
their temper and says a few nasty things. It doesn’t have to be
horrible, she’s not calling him horrible names. She makes fun of him a
little bit, but she takes his defense when Lolo says he’s ugly, she says, ‘No,
he just dresses badly!’ She’s not really mean,
she loves him. People are not perfect, and that’s my thing when
I never think of characters as perfect — if
you’re good in business, maybe you have a terrible sense for
relationships. I don’t believe for a second that there’s
a person who’s so one-dimensional. I’ve never met one.
And the people that pretend to be one-dimensional, I don’t believe it. Those
people, I wonder what’s up there. More than people who are
anxious or neurotic, because they bring it all right out, so you pretty much
I wrote a drama that I’m directing this fall, it’s
set in England. I have a fun, epic comedy set in the 1800s that I’ll
do after this drama.
Like a farce? I see a lot of those elements in “Lolo.” Do you like farces?
I love farces. People running in and out of doors, confusions, you
find the husband in the bed. [sighs] It makes me laugh. It’s
part of French culture, also; Feydeau was an old writer of great farces, Molière,
it’s a whole culture. You walk in, ‘who’s
that?’ ‘I can explain!’ But
my favorite writing is dark, dark makes me happy sometimes. It goes into the
complexity of the human soul. I also love to go places people don’t
expect. It’s boring to go the way people tell you to go. It’s
not very exciting.
“Lolo” opens in limited release today, March 11.
READ MORE: Julie Delpy’s Romantic Comedy ‘Lolo’ to Be Released By FilmRise