On Monday night, I went to an advanced screening in Santa Monica at the Aero Theater of Lolo, the new film of Julie Delpy.
Lolo is coming out this weekend in California. It is distributed by FilmRise.
Julie Delpy was attending the screening, as some Q&A was planned afterwards. But wait, Julie Delpy didn’t just appear at the end of the film –as most filmmakers do– she was there from the start. The affable Julie Delpy appeared in her signature floral-pattern long dress, long coat and big black framed glasses that cover a third of her face. She greeted us and added: “I hope you will like the movie so you can spread the word, but if you don’t it’s ok too, don’t kill me, it’s just a movie!” Right off the bat, you get Julie Delpy: simple, charming and quite blunt.
Ok, you figured have figured this out that I like her but why? And, does that mean that I automatically liked her film Lolo?
Why did I decide on writing this post? Because I got free advanced screening tickets form the French Embassy in Los Angeles? Because she is an accomplished artists? No.
Because July Delpy is very much an OhlalaLandian:
- she is a product of two cultures: the French and the American one.
- she is a multitalented artist who worked hard to be accepted as writer and a filmmaker.
If you want to know more about the meaning of OhlalaLand, I refer you to my home page.
Julie Delpy: Actress
Julie Delpy has been mostly known for her acting career, having starred in more that 30 movies. How did it begin?
At the age of 14, she was discovered by Jean-Luc Godard who casted her in his film Détective (1985), and then two years later she starred in Bertrand Tavernier’s La Passion Béatrice from which she was nominated for a César Award for Most Promising Actress (equivalence to the Academy Awards)!
What can be better than this: working with two of the biggest French Directors, being nominated for a César and being only 16? When, I was young, I finished high school a little before the others, 6 months before turning 18 and I remember I thought I was special ahah!
At the age of 19, Julie Delpy became an international celebrity with her role in Europa Europa by Agnieska Holland (great film) and started to appear in some of Hollywood films.
For more info about Julie Delpy’s acting career and filmography, google her or to Imbd or Wikipedia.
In the US, Julie Delpy is probably best known for her collaborations with Richard Linklater co-staring with Ethan Hawke in the romantic trilogy of Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013.) But, did you know that she co-wrote the script for Before Sunset and Before Sunrise with Richard Linklater and Ethan Hawke? And, also that she did the music for Before Sunset?
Julie Delpy has been living in the states since the late 90. She was first located in New York and later on moved to Los Angeles. She got naturalized in 2001 (one year after I did. Yeah, I beat her there!!)
Julie Delpy: from Acting to Writing and Directing
So, here we go: Julie Delpy is not just an actress. She is also a screenwriter and a director. She has written the screenplay for 7 feature films and has directed 6 of movies. In 2005, she has received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Writing for the Adapted Screenplay of Before Sunset and in 2008, she received a César Award nomination for Best Writing for Original Screenplay for the film that she also directed, 2 Days in Paris.
At the screening of Lolo on Monday, Julie Delpy spoke of her transition from acting to writing. As mentioned above, she was famous at a very early age, she was also a very beautiful young woman. “When I was young, I was pretty you know,” she nonchalantly waved as if this time had long time passed. “Most of the people were telling me you’re pretty, you should just focused on acting.” But, that is not what she wanted. Julie had something else in mind, she wanted to write and direct.
In 1993, she met with Polish movie Director Krzysztof Kieślowski and was cast as his female lead in Three Colors: White. There started a friendship, which unfortunately was turned short as the director died four years later. Back then, the young actress would confide to the director, who quickly became her mentor, about her desire to write and become a director as well.
Krzysztof Kieślowski didn’t role his eyes like others. He fully supported her when she decided to go to New York and study screenwriting and directing at New York University’s Tish School of the Arts. Julie remembers his words: “Make movies that come from a true place in you. Have first that little seed of you and then you can add something else, you can add Fantasy.”
“It was not easy” to become and be accepted as a female writer and director, she said. Recently, it was when she was trying to address the issues of inequality of opportunity in the industry for women at the Sundance Film Festival that she made a diversity comment that got her into trouble.
Her comment: “Two years ago, I said something about the Academy being very white male, which is the reality, and I was slashed to pieces by the media,” she said. “It’s funny — women can’t talk. I sometimes wish I were African-American, because people don’t bash them afterward.”
Julie Delpy later apologized for her comment saying that she ‘never meant to diminish the injustice done to African American artists or to any other people that struggle for equal opportunities and rights, on the contrary. All I was trying to do is to address the issues of inequality of opportunity in the industry for women as well (as I am a woman). I never intended to underestimate anyone else’s struggle! We should stay alert and united and support each other to change this unfair reality and don’t let anyone sabotage our common efforts by distorting the truth.“
I admit, her comment was not correctly phrase but let me just say that having followed Julie Delpy’s career for a while now, and especially the films that she wrote and directed, I can tell that she DOES stand for inequality and injustice of any kind. Julie Delpy is more of a French/New Yorker hippy anyway, her wardrobe is a proof of it (sorry Julie!) ahaha!
Anyway, just watch all of her stuff, read about her and then make up your mind.
On Monday night, Julie warned her interviewer for the Q & A that she didn’t want to speak about that comment again, she was very sorry about it and how people turned her comment wrongly. All that Julie Delpy wanted to speak about with her interviewer was the fact that women are misrepresented in the film industry.
Julie Delpy said that in France there are 25% of women Directors. While in the US that number is much lower.
In 2014, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, Women comprised 13% of directors on the top 700 films, but just 7% on the top 250 films. They made up 13% of writers on the top 700 films, and 11% on the top 250 films. And 27% of producers on the top 700 films were female, while 23% on the top 250 films were female. And women accounted for 9% of cinematographers on the top 700 films, but 5% of cinematographers on the top 250 pictures.
LOLO: dark comedy and vulgar dialogue
“The film is a little weird, it is not a funny comedy,” said the director. Julie Delpy has created a dark comedy, an offbeat farce with dialogues that are said to be vulgar. That is the reason why, her seven year-old son who was accompanying her on Monday night, had to step out of the room when the screening began.
Vulgar dialogues? Yeah, but not too much as far as I’m concern. We have seen or should I say ‘heard worse.’ The thing is that, most of the time, we hear men using vulgarity in films’ dialogues, making tons of sex jokes and commenting on ‘their bitches’ and it often appears as being cool. But, in Lolo, ‘the bitches’ are fighting back and sex jokes are made from the female perspective, which is why it makes you feel, at times, uncomfortable. Most of the sex jokes in Lolo or when Violette (Julie Delpy) speak with her best friend Ariane (Karin Viard.)
LOLO: shot in French!
Let me warn you, Lolo was shot in French language. “But, Julie Delpy is French!” Well, remember she is also American now! And, Julie Delpy has often written scripts in English. On Monday night, she explained that she just felt that Lolo had to be shot in her native language. I totally understand her here. I write in both languages and some stories or lyrics I write feel sometimes more natural in one language more than the other (I am thinking on writing a post in the near future about the topic with maybe some other bilingual writers commenting, let me know in the post’s comment below what you think about it and if you have any suggestions.)
Lolo is ‘obviously’ subtitled in English but the translation, sadly, doesn’t do justice to some good play on words L It rarely does in films anyway, and this is mostly due to the time constraint and mouth gestures that need to match (another possible post on voice over and translation, what do you think?) Do Americans like subtitles? Hum?? I have lived in the US for more than 17 years, I start to know my fellow Americans and they do not enjoy much watching subtitled films (except to some old Shaw Brothers films maybe!) so I am not sure it helps the film for its commercial potential. But hey, don’t worry. Julie Delpy’s next film On the Verge is going to be shot in English.
Lolo is the story of a 40-year-old single mum Violette (played by Julie Delpy,) financially independent and works in the Fashion Industry, who falls in love for an IT guy, somehow unfashionable and blend Jean-René (played by Dany Boon.) But, this new love is jeopardized by Violette’s 19 year-old son, Eloi nicknamed Lolo, a sociopath who does everything he can to sabotage his mum’s new relationship.
Why a story about a child sociopath?
Sociopathy: is a personality disorder that manifests itself in such traits as dishonesty, charm, manipulation, narcissism, and a lack of both remorse and impulse control.
Julie Delpy co-wrote the script with Eugénie Grandval. Both women have much in common, not just with their age but Eugénie Grandval has had, as Julie, a bi-coastal and transatlantic career trajectory and a multifaceted resume (film development executive, writer, producer, and former lawyer who studied in New York as well.)
Julie Delpy said that during their early meetings, they spoke about what it meant to be a mother, a woman in her 40’s, and…falling in love with a sociopath!
“I wanted to know how do you deal with a narcissist? with the person that you like the most? It was interesting to me to know what it felt like when it’s your own flesh and blood.” Later she added, “Can you believe that 4% of the general population is sociopath!” I tried to verify this number. Psychologist Martha Stout, a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School for 25 years, estimated in her book The Sociopath Next Door that as many as 4% of the population are conscienceless sociopaths who have no empathy or affectionate feelings for humans or animals. It would mean 1 in 25 people! But her book was published a while ago in 2005.
Some other mental health experts put the percentage of sociopaths at 1-3% of the population, which is 3-9 million Americans, which is not bad anyway. It doesn’t matter to me 1, 2 or 4 % it is still too much! I wonder how many are in Lalaland? hum…wait a sec, my neighbor is knocking at my door. Call my mum if I don’t finish this article!
It’s ok, I am back now!
Julie Delpy said that she got her inspiration for Lolo from watching The Bad Seed. The Bad Seed is a 1956’s film directed by Mervyn LeRoy about a mother who suspects her perfect little girl Rhoda to be a ruthless killer. One trivia about Julie Delpy: even though she often writes comedies she often gets inspired by watching horror films!
Also, Julie Delpy has a particular affection to films from the 40’s and 50’s. One thing that she fancies about them is that they often have smaller parts that are very significant to the story. “They had important supporting roles and it kind of disappeared with the New Wave.” Quickly adding, “I never cast a small part slightly,” referring to the part of the Doctor in Lolo played by Nicolas Wanczycki.
Should a mother be found guilty of having a monster as a son?
Was it Mrs. Bates’ fault in Psycho if her son poisoned her and her lover out of jealousy?
One of the first lines in Lolo is:“Qu’est-ce que c’est chiant d’être mère!” (It’s a such a pain in the butt to be a mum!) Being a mum maybe one of the most beautiful things in the world but it ain’t also not easy and Julie Delpy admits it. But, can the pressure of being a mother combined with unconditional love, admiration for your own flesh and blood, create the perfect nest for a sociopath to grow his disorder into real madness?
A very strong and awkward moment in Lolo takes place after the dinner that is prepared Violette to her new love Jean-René and her son in order for them to properly get to know each other. Three of them are later on sitting on the couch, smiling and giggling. Suddenly, Violette says to Jean-René : “Mon fils c’est le future de l’humanité.” (My son is the future of Humanity.) That phrase certainly changes the atmosphere of this otherwise very light scene. We (the audience in the Theater) all felt it: a very cold chill!
Indeed, when you watch Lolo you cannot help yourself but think about your own life and your relationship with your own mother. It did remind me of my mother’s comments that-at some times-sounded very similar to one from the film. Mothers true intentions are almost always good of course, but what a sociopath in love can do about theses comments is another matter.
Julie Delpy confided “It was one of my favorite scenes to shoot, the three of us on the couch.”
The choice of the actors:
Dany Boon plays Jean-René Graves, Violette’s new love. Some of you, my friends, might not know him (because a lot of famous French actors are not known at all in the US) but Dany Boon is extremely famous in France not just as an actor but comedian and director. In 2008, he was the highest-paid actor in European film history, with 26 million Euro. In 2015, he was chosen as the director of the César Award ceremony.
“Dany Boon is the sweet element in the movie (Lolo). It is painful to see him suffer. Imagine, someone you like is getting tortured!” Julie Delpy.
This is the way Dany Boon is often pictured in films: an affable, sweet and genuine guy. So, casting him for Lolo was a good choice and Dany Boon gave a good performance without overshadowing the other actors. Even though in Lolo his character starts as weak and old-fashioned, I strangely found him sexy! Moreover, his character grows stronger in the film. He is very confused at the beginning of the story and he misses confidence about his manhood. But, everything changes as he begins to rebel against Lolo’s attempts to destroy him.
Vincent Lacoste who plays Eloi nicknamed Lolo. Vincent Lacoste is a 22 year-old French actor who was already been nominated twice for a César Awards. It was the first time in Lolo that I saw him perform. I thought he was good, no doubt, but I was not convinced about him being a sociopath. I thought he was more of a selfish young adult who had a hard time to share his mum and be the center of her love. That unfortunately comes also from the writing which I thought was a little too ‘sweet” (see my conclusion.) One thing that was funny though on Monday night was when the Q&A interviewer asked Julie Delpy about Vincent Lacoste, she threw: “I can’t get you a Lacoste shirt because he is not related to the Lacoste family.”
A few words about the very convincing Karin Viard. She plays Ariane, Violette’s friend, another 40ish independent woman who gives advises to Violette on relationships.
Karin Viard’s performance was great but no surprise there, no wonder why she has received throughout her career 11 César Awards nominations and has won two of them (one for Best Actress and one for Best Supporting Actress.) I’ve loved since her debut in Tatie Danielle in 1990 (this film was so cool, I need to see it again!) In 1991, you (my fellow Americans) might have discovered Karin Viard as she was Mademoiselle Plusse in Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro’s film Delicatessen. This actress has really something special. She is one of these actors that light up a scene even in the dark.
Karl Lagarfeld’s cameo: Violette (Julie Delpy) works in Fashion in Lolo. At one point in the film, there is a scene about a Fashion party she has organized. It takes place in a subway station in Paris. Well, let me tell you that even though it was in Paris, it reminded me of the kind of crazy parties I was going to when I was living in New York. Julie Delpy lived for many years in New York, I am sure this was in inspiration.
I didn’t know about Karl Lagerfeld’s cameo, so it was a pleasant surprise. I think he was true to himself.
Writing background stories to characters: a rule for writing?
In Lolo, the character of the mother, Violette, doesn’t have a backstory. It is odd. Why? Because this is usually what we are told in any creative writing classes. “I didn’t want to get into that. She is the mother and he is the son. I like that you don’t know too much, it is much more interesting.” Said Julie Delpy on Monday. The director then refered us to two great American Directors with John Cassavetes and David Lynch. For John Cassavetes, she mentioned his movie Minnie and Moskowitz: “Imagine if his characters had to be explained!” (I apologize to you, I have not seen this film yet, it is now on my To Watch List, TWL.)
“I’m a fan of David Lynch. His characters are never too much explained. It is like Abstract Art, you have to work on your imagination.” But very quickly, Julie Delpy corrected herself “I am not comparing myself to Abstract Art, far from it.”
So, I liked the original idea for the film (exploring this notion of how do you deal with a narcissist when this person is the person that you like the most), the actors’ performances, and the way it was directed and edited. However, I felt that she should have gone darker.
What the sociopath son, Lolo, is doing to stop his mum’s relationship from happening is not that bad. I don’t say that Julie Delpy should have made Lolo like Rhoda in the Black Seed or Norma Bates in Psycho, but I felt it was a little too sweet, a little too politically correct. This dark comedy was not dark enough for my taste.
Nonetherless, I DO recommend seeing this film. Yes, even though Lolo is not a masterpiece, I think there is much more to it. There is a real effort from Julie Delpy to make a film from a female’s perspective, and a good tentative to show a woman’s complexity.
Julie Delpy is currently developing a comedy series, On the Verge, with a “US prominent” streaming service (Netflix, Hulu??) that will go deeper than Lolo in exploring women complexity. Set in the US (so shot in English language guys!), the Series will be about a group of forty-something women that are tackling singlehood, therefore depicting their relationship with men. So, go Julie! But, please do better than this awful show–of forty-something white whiny wealthy white females I could never relate to from-Sex in the City!
I want to see more films made by women like Julie Delpy, women with balls (excuse my French) that keep on going forward.