Julie Delpy’s second feature as a writer-director is a smart and spiky self-reflective comedy about Marion, a Parisienne photographer living in New York (Delpy) who, en route from a holiday in Venice, gives her American boyfriend, interior designer Jack (Adam Goldberg), a whirlwind tour of Paris, her family and her friends. The roads they tread, as they walk and talk in the city over a couple of days à la Richard Linklater’s ‘Before Sunset’ (which, tellingly, Delpy co-wrote in 2004 with Linklater and Ethan Hawke), are minefields of cultural misunderstandings, ex-boyfriends, ex-hippy parents and taxi drivers that are racist, homophobic, xenophobic or predatory.
Partly a study of cross-national relationships and partly a homecoming comedy on Delpy’s part, ‘Two Days in Paris’ neatly balances stabs at both America and the French. ‘Which one of these looks more Godard?’ asks Jack as he tries on two pairs of sunglasses and prepares to visit Jim Morrison’s grave at Père Lechaise. Marion, meanwhile, tries hard to argue, with classic French sophistry, that a blow-job in her past is nothing compared to either the war in Iraq or the threat of avian flu.
The dynamic between Goldberg and Delpy has a light, improvisational touch to it, but the hit-rate of Delpy’s wit suggests that ‘Two Days in Paris’ is tightly scripted from personal experience. A flurry of bit-parts keeps the momentum flowing: a succession of cabbies represent the less palatable elements of French society, while a line-up of Marion’s ex-love interests provide a necessary level of poetic pretension. It’s only during the last half hour, when the mood turns more introspective, that the narrative goes a little flaccid. That said, Delpy wisely draws matters to a close without recourse to much melodrama or hysteria and thankfully forgets the quirkier tics offered by the first few minutes