2 Days in Paris (2007)
Dir: Julie Delpy
People speak french in Paris… who knew?
Possibly not some American audiences. Often when films are set in foreign countries everyone miraculously speaks English, sometimes with an impression of the local accent, sometimes not. Thank goodness this film was realistically bi-lingual. It follows a couple who have been dating for 2 years, as they briefly visit the girlfriend’s family in Paris on their way back to New York after a holiday in Venice, being on the same continent they may as well. I’ve been to Paris a few times, I have friends there, I even have a sister there. If I went to Paris today, my sister would speak English with me (as my French is rusty) but French with her friends there. This film nicely showed exactly that, with Marion (Julie Delpy) speaking French to her friends and family, but English to her American boyfriend, and not always translating (certainly not accurately or fully).
To say it’s a ‘culture-clash’ storyline is to over simplify things, though that may be at the root of many of the problems, it also shows issues that could happen just as easily anywhere, misunderstandings, and annoyances that could crop in any country for any couple, but being in Paris with Jack (Adam Goldberg, who I found it great to see in a lead role for once rather than the supporting parts you’ll recognise him from) already out of his comfort zone, it magnifies the tensions and makes it all much worse.
French people are often quite strange, French women especially, I speak from experience, and Jack learns this very quickly as he’s dramatically immersed into his girlfriend’s ‘other’ life, the one she had when she lived in Paris. He’s looking for evidence that a ‘small world’ theory works, which states that one the other side of the planet you’re likely to bump into someone who lives down the road from you, but instead finds that it’s far more likely in your girlfriends home city, that you’ll just bump into all her ex-boyfriends!
It echoes some aspects of ‘french farce’ films, but in a way that’s possibly adjusted to appeal to a non-french audience, using elements of over-candid conversation and surreal situations to put the audience in Jack’s shoes somewhat, that you feel distanced by these unusual things, yet we still get that contrasted with some narration from Marion instead, clashing a sense of what he’s feeling with a verbal expression of her thoughts, and there’s the greater clash.