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Frank Van Passel
2 Jours - 2 Days follows two days in the relationship of a New York based couple - a French photographer Marion and American interior designer Jack - as they attempt to re-infuse their relationship with romance by taking a vacation in Europe. Their trip to Venice didn't really work out, - they both came down with gastroenteritis. They have higher hopes for Paris. But the combination of Marion's overbearing non-English-speaking parents, flirtatious ex-boyfriends, and Jack's obsession with photographing every famous Parisian tombstone and conviction that French condoms are too small, only adds fuel to the fire. Will they be able to salvage their relationship? Will they ever have sex again? Or will they merely manage to perfect the art of arguing? Written by
From a study of the movie poster, you might be tempted to think this is another pointless romantic movie about two lovers in France. "Oui," they will fight, love, eat croissants and find meaning. How drearily cliché.
But, surprise of surprises, "Two Days in Paris" is a very funny, very soulful and very interesting look at a slice of the life of two quite interesting characters. On the surface, Marion (Julie Delpy) and Jack (Adam Goldberg) are two irritatingly pretentious neurotics. Both 35 and childless, they have been traveling Europe for 2 weeks, deciding to stop in Paris for a couple days to drop in on Marion's family and friends before flying home to New York. Marion is French, the child of left-wing French artists. Jack is a New Yorker, a political lefty whose shallow grasp of culture (he speaks only English, for instance) is purely American. She had aspirations to be a photographer, though (for reasons the film will make clear) her work is strictly third-class. He takes pictures of everything, but has no eye for form, color or composition.
What's fun about the film is the complexity of the relationships. To Jack's annoyance, Marion keeps bumping into her old boyfriends. And her father seems intent on humiliating or offending him and his American tastes. A dinner scene in which he is offered a rabbit's head is just hilarious. When offered carrots, he says, "So, we're going to eat the bunny's food, too?" For her part, Marion cannot understand why Jack finds her continued casual friendships with exes to be so extraordinary. And Jack, utterly clueless about the nuances (or even the surface content) of Marion's conversations, is getting paranoid that he is not being told everything. At one point, Marion is holding a violent argument with a racist cabdriver. Jack knows something is going on, but can't get past Marion's insistence that everything is fine.
I realize as I write this that I am doing no justice to the joyful sense of voyeurism that the film affords.The film is so smartly written and fast-paced that sometimes you forget you are watching a film and think you are watching dinner with Julie's real family or attending parties with her smug and artsy friends. The film is completely convincing and has a depth of heart I didn't expect. It deal with secrets and the frustration that comes from knowing another person. The language and culture barriers then act as metaphors for the inability of two people, even lovers, to inhabit another's life and experience.
"Two Days in Paris" is not for all. Marion and Jack are exemplars of the worst aspects of US and European artistic classes. Their treatment of a group of Americans on a "Da Vinci Code" tour tells you more than you want to know about the antagonisms between right and left. But their smug, knowing put downs of Bush and Cheney supporters are less political messages by the movie makers than markers of the characters' personalities. This movie about liberals does not necessarily espouse their world view. But, at heart, this is a love story, not a political drama. Secondly, since we are talking about shallow artists, there is an enormous amount of politico-sexual "art" on display in the film. While this may be offensive to the audience, its presence helps to define the characters themselves. It's not there to titillate the viewer, but to describe the actors.
Delpy, who wrote, directed, produced and acted in the movie, has made a master work that is complex, evocative, real and quite beautiful. She has captured aspects of the French national character that seem quite convincing. She has also aptly captured the emotions and dilemmas of 30-something adults who, under it all, are still looking for meaning, belonging and peace. Goldberg gave a powerful and hilarious performance. He's Ben Stiller with a soul.
If you can put up with the film's politics, you will be amply rewarded. Magnifique!
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