Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Too Days Een Parees
I just spent “2 Days in Paris” with Julie Delpy, Adam Goldberg and a potpourri of strange French characters and I must say, 48 hours isn’t enough. I haven’t laughed so hard at a Franco-American romantic comedy based in Paris since … well, this is the first Franco-American romantic comedy based in Paris I’ve seen. (The season finale of “Sex&TheCity” does NOT count, thank you.) Delpy, une Française living in the US (and my doppelganger I’d like to think), has written, directed, edited AND provided the music for this hysterical romp through Paris which manages to poke fun at the French, but avoid nearly all “an American in Paris” humor clichés. Dialogue-driven humor combined with postcard-like panoramas of Paris and uproarious performances from ubiquitous paranoid Jew Adam Goldberg and Delpy’s real-life parents make the film a two-day French vacation not to be missed.
“2 Days” is a satire of Yankee-Gallic cultural differences disguised as a moving love story, disguised as a biting comedy disguised as a cheap way to experience the real Paris without buying a plane ticket or paying for a tour guide.
The movie opens with a close-up of a sleeping Jack (Goldberg) and Marion (Delpy) on a train on the way back from vacation in Venice. The couple – she, a quirky photographer and he, a mysteriously tattooed interior designer – decide to stop over in Paris for a couple of days on their way back home to New York. Goldberg plays the typical neurotic New York Jew transplanted into what appears to be another galaxy in a Woody Allen-like coup de comedy. Delpy is back in her “Before Sunrise”/”After Sunset” shoes traversing the city of lights, but this time with little make-up and a far more idiosyncratic, unglamorous role.
It was as if Delpy took the past three years of my life in France, stole the funniest moments, and compacted them into a 1h36minute film. My American-living-in-Paris friend Mademoiselle Ange, who I took to the screening, and I were howling for most of the film, but noticed that the French viewers among us were silent for the most part. Perhaps it is because, after all, the film not only pokes fun at the French, but also exaggerates the experience of clueless Americans reacting to the ostensibly normal in France yet strange, strange practices of les Français. Yet, at the same time, from the opening scene where Jack sends poor, unsuspecting, Bush-supporting middle Americans on a Da Vinci Code tour on a wrong path to the Louvre to Jack’s fear of Muslim terrorist attacks on the Metro, the film also makes fun of Americans in Paris. And Jack’s reaction to Marion’s tiny studio apartment (above that of her parents) was an exact reincarnation of my own mother’s reaction to my apartment. “It’s…er…quaint. And very…uhh…Parisian,” he says, then enters the bathroom and starts screaming. “OH MY G-D! Is that black mold on the wall??” “it’s like a Petri dish for allergens,” he adds. Did Delpy arrange a meeting with my own Jewish mother before finishing the script I wonder?
A few moments later, when the couple attempt to have sex in her tiny bed (try adding 81 steps sans elevator, a ladder and a bed “en mezzanine” which, in French means, “LIKE SLEEPING IN A COFFIN” and THEN expect some pity from me, kids), Jack is astounded by the small size of French condoms. “No wonder French men have to be so romantic,” he says. And the French idea of fidelity (actually, the idea of fidelity doesn’t exist in France), breakups, and love clash with Jack’s Americanized views on such issues when the two run into several of Marion’s former boyfriends and lovers.
The lunch scene that follows had me peeing in my tiny French pants. Delpy’s father steals the show as a vulgar yet loveable French man who forgets to think before he speaks and quizzes Jack on American and French literature while eating the head of a rabbit and declaring that “real men eat the head” as Jack tries to stomach le lapin while trying to forget memories of his childhood bunny. This scene brought me back to a dinner I had when I first spent time in Paris one summer when I was 16. A friend’s father took us out to a fancy 8-course meal and I had to eat everything on my plate. After suffering through shellfish with eyes, some strange jelly-like pâté and snails, I was given the main course: rabbit. My friend then starting singing “Little Bunny Foo Foo” and I just couldn’t handle it, so I opted to eat the small white pasta-like chunks on the side of the plate, only to learn later from our waiter that these weren’t indeed chunks of pasta, but instead pieces of RABBIT LARD. Ah oui, I’ve never been able to see Easter in quite the same way.
In another scene, the lovers get into a taxi and the conversation that follows is the exact same conversation I have pretty much every time I enter a cab.
Taxi driver: “Vous êtes américains?”
Deply: “Lui, oui, on habite à NY.”
(He is, yes, We live in NY.)
Taxi driver: “Ah New York? J’ADORE New York!”
Delpy also has to explain to friends at a party that Jack cannot drink red wine – he has an allergy and gets headaches. So when I announce a similar red wine allergy to French people and they look at me like I am an alien with 4 heads and a cheeseburger attached to the side of my face, now they’ll see that I’m not alone in my physical sensitivity to the red grape.
Speaking of allergies, I think perhaps the funniest scene is when Marion eats muscles and has a reaction. Amidst the screaming and panic, Jack yells “Somebody call 911! Wait is it 911 here?” And Marion is screaming “Allergie! Moules!” (“meaning I have a muscle allergy!”) And Jack starts yelling “Quick somebody call Allergie Moules! Allergie Moules!”
The last scenes are a bit strange as Marion turns into a borderline bipolar crazy woman (again, it was like looking into a mirror. JUST KIDDING) and Jack meets a strange animal rights activist in a fast-food joint (a cameo from German actor Daniel Bruhl), but all’s well that ends well and Delpy doesn’t hesitate to end the film with a love scene in Paris, as all romantic comedies taking place in Paris should end. Delpy isn’t afraid of cliché or slapstick humor, but manages to create a film virtually without both. Many of the jokes and lines are extremely funny and usually subtle. It’s as if Woody Allen cloned himself but came out instead as a blond French woman poking fun at her own people. Her chemistry with Goldberg is wonderful and it was nice to see scenes of Paris not out of a Frommer’s tour book. Très bien, Madame Delpy, très bien.
“2 Days in Paris” opens in France on July 11th and in the U.S. on August 10th. Courez-y!
Quote of the Day: "J'ai aimé et j'ai été aimé, mais jamais les deux en mêmê temps." ("I've loved and I've been loved, but never both at the same time.")
-Frédéric Beigbeder, from "Au Secours Pardon" out in French bookstores today.
Café of the Day: Exciting news! No, Paris Hilton is STILL in jail and Demi and Ashton haven't gotten divorced (yet) but... Cojean has opened a new café right next to the Louvre! And, yes that's correct, right across the river from chez moi! Not only does the new location provide a scenic view of the French capital's most famous museum and all of Cojean's light, delicious, fresh products to munch on, but it's also - are you sitting down? - open on Sundays! Sure, G-d may have rested on Sundays but Cojean doesn't need to, vive le healthy sandwich! They actually just put out their new summer menu which features an orzo pasta salad with parmesan, zucchini, sundried tomatoes and a lemon-olive sauce, a mini-sandwich with grilled veggies on brioche, fresh melon and a carrot salad with cinnamon, pistachio and raspberries. All worth eating if you're spending at least "2 Days in Paris" anytime soon.
Word of the Day: La Palettiquette: n. m. an ethics code to follow when visiting 43, rue de Seine 75006 Paris, France.
It’s pretty much the same story for most popular Parisian spots. Someone decides that a place is cool and it becomes the place to be for no ostensible reason other than somebody decided that it’s cool and no one is about to contest such a decision. (see: Le Baron, le Bar du Marché and Mathis.) Take La Palette, for example. Located on the rue de Seine, in between art galleries and, well, more art galleries, La Palette resembles every other café in the capital – tiny, round tables and little chairs outside, tiny, round tables and little chairs inside, a bathroom for 1 complete with a toilet that flushes when it pleases, and a few beverage choices on the menu, namely an oenephile’s nightmare “red wine, white wine or rosé.” Yet French hipsters and unsuspecting tourists wandering past the art galleries come from near and far to crowd around tables, drink whatever is on tap and smoke cigarettes. Pourquoi, you may ask? Is it the view? Other people drinking wine and smoking cigarettes. The cuisine? Cheese on toast. Ham on toast. Or a mix of the two. The beverages? Wine. Beer. And Perrier. Yet neither rain nor sleet nor snow will keep these French soldiers from their Palette. As soon as the sun even hints that it’s about to make an appearance, everyone in France between the age of 20 and 25 heads to La Palette to sit side-by-side (almost on each other’s laps in fact), drink wine and stare those waiting for tables up and down. Ah oui, waiting for a table. Getting a table during “Palette prime time” (read: from around 7 PM to midnight) is about as easy as finding a Frenchman with big muscles or a sandwich without butter in this town. Translation: eeem-poos-eee-buuul. And the Code of La Palethics doesn’t seem to exist. La Palogic states that no matter how many people are waiting for a table, one has the right to simply walk up and sit down if one sees someone getting up. La Palettiquette also implies that blowing cigarette smoke into someone’s face directly is OK. However, despite the lack of La Palettiquette, La Palette is a crowded, smoky yet unfailingly fun place to drink wine with friends, run into everyone you’ve ever met in life (or at least during your French life) and enter into stage 4 lung cancer faster than you can say “But I was here first!”
Link of le day: http://www.gogoparis.com/gogogo/node/1399