Stand­ing Her Ground

For Julie Delpy, “feminism” is so much more than a con­ve­nient buzz­word.

Elle (Canada) - - Radar - By Michael-Oliver Harding

Last night, the pho­tog­ra­pher snap­ping pho­tos said, ‘I want to take pic­tures of the di­rec­tor with the ac­tress.’” In most cir­cum­stances, there would be noth­ing pause-wor­thy about that state­ment. But here I am, sit­ting in a Toronto ho­tel suite with Julie Delpy, one of in­die cinema’s most beloved multi-hy­phen­ates, and I’m to­tally riled up by her ac­count of gen­der stereo­typ­ing in my own back­yard. “The pho­tog­ra­pher was re­fer­ring to Dany [Boon] and me,” says the 46-year-old writer-di­rec­tor-ac­tress, re­call­ing the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val (TIFF) pre­miere of her lat­est French satire, Lolo (out now). “He thought I was the ac­tress—ob­vi­ously. Dany turned to me with a big grin and was like, ‘Did you hear that?’”

I have only just taken a seat and reached for my notes, yet the Academy Award nom­i­nee is al­ready prov­ing to be a first-rate con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist, re­mind­ing me of so many of her iconic out­spo­ken on­screen char­ac­ters, such as Mar­ion in 2 Days in Paris/2 Days in New York and Cé­line in the Be­fore tril­ogy. Since mak­ing a strong early-ca­reer im­pres­sion in the films of Jean-Luc Go­dard and Krzysztof Kies­lowski, Delpy has brought her sin­gu­lar vi­sion and en­dear­ing neu­roses to writ­ing and di­rect­ing on both sides of the At­lantic. At last fall’s TIFF, too much ink was spilled (mostly in the up­tight English-lan­guage press) about a hi­lar­i­ous scene in Lolo where Delpy and her fortysome­thing BFF can­didly dish about sex. I bring this up be­cause it ap­pears to be symp­to­matic of a cul­ture that re­fuses to grant sex­ual agency to women over a cer­tain age.

“Isn’t it funny that peo­ple still get up­set about women talk­ing frankly about sex?” she says rhetor­i­cally, echo­ing my sen­ti­ment while try­ing to wrap her head around its shock­ing tenac­ity. “They write it off as ‘Oh, she hates men.’ C’mon, guys, I’m mak­ing fun of things! We have been treated like dogs for cen­turies.... Can’t I have a lit­tle fun about your pe­nis for five min­utes with­out mak­ing you feel like you’ve been cas­trated?”

Be­sides flip­ping the script on the con­ven­tion of men treat­ing women as sex­ual com­modi­ties, Delpy’s films also find her wag­ing a holy war against our cul­ture’s “dat­ing rules” non­sense, which too many lovelorn lon­ers still gob­ble up. “I think what at­tracted Richard [Lin­klater] to cast me in Be­fore Sun­rise was that he un­der­stood that my idea of ro­mance has noth­ing to do with codes like ‘He didn’t call me back af­ter the first date!’ or ‘He didn’t pro­pose!’ All that ba­loney is very Amer­i­can, I must say. It makes it so tough on both men and women.”

Delpy points to the ro­man­tic lead she dreamed up for Lolo— an awk­ward but kind-hearted com­puter whiz played by Boon—as ev­i­dence that pure kind­ness is, in her book, a man’s most at­trac­tive qual­ity. “I’ve never fallen in love based on some­one’s so­cial sta­tus,” she ar­gues. “Be­ing a good per­son is one of a hu­man be­ing’s great­est qual­i­ties. And to me, that’s im­por­tant for ro­mance.”

While Delpy and I re­flect on the af­ter­math of the hard-fought sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion of her par­ents’ gen­er­a­tion, she talks of an oft-over­looked out­come. “I re­mem­ber how happy my dad was at the time. He said: ‘I can be who I want to be! I don’t have to be tough. I don’t want to go to war. I can cry—louder than ev­ery­one—when I see a Dou­glas Sirk movie,’” she re­calls with af­fec­tion. “Some men get it, ob­vi­ously, and thank God.” h

Delpy with Dany Boon in her lat­est film, Lolo

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