12 February 2007

My Love Affair With Julie Delpy

This is my entry for the Lovesick Blog-a-Thon, hosted right here at 100 films. It's pre-dated so as not to bump the full list down


My first film was a student film, made without the benefit of a film production class[1]. It wasn't even remotely good, and I don't let anyone watch it anymore, but that's not why I mention it. That was the film I did what all filmmakers do at some point in their lives--I fell for the lead actress. She was a last minute addition to the film and the performance, by her admission, wasn't very good, but that didn't really matter.

She used to visit me late at night while I edited, bringing coffee to help keep me awake, but just the promise of her arrival would keep me wired until 7am.

But graduation was two months away, and when I moved home, the love affair fizzled out. To this day, I consider it one of my biggest mistakes.

I moved to Chattanooga for two years and one day, in the bargin bin at Wal-Mart, was Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise (1995). Everything about it felt like my relationship with that girl, from the long, late-night sessions to the vague ending. For one of the first times in my life, I felt like a filmmaker was telling my story, but not only the story of that night, but the knowledge that unless something remarkable were to happen, I may never see her again. Word on the rumour mill was that she was engaged and I, as far as I knew, had moved on.

Then, my job got outsourced, I moved back to Pittsburgh, and in the process of editing a documentary, she started visiting me again. All those old feelings were rekindled and before I really knew what was happening, her engagement was over and Before Sunset (2004) was nearing a release date. It all seemed perfect, storybook, like somehow a love story on film was mimicing my own life, like they were somehow operating in tandem, destined for something profound.

We saw it together. She loved it nearly as much as I did. She even spent the weekend at my apartment. And then it all went wrong. Quickly.

But that wasn't what bothered me. What really bothered me, what fucked me up for a long time, was the idea that what felt so perfect, so filmic, not only didn't have a happy ending, but didn't even last long enough to seem like it would have a happy ending. There was no reason for the demise, no moment where I made the classic protagonist mistake, no grand misunderstanding. If my life were a film, the critics would have complained that the disintegration of the romance didn't make sense, that it didn't pass the suspension of disbelief test. I couldn't comprehend her character's motivations.

It took me a long time to get past that.

Eventually I realized that life wasn't always like a movie, that sometimes characters did things that didn't make any sense, that there wasn't always foreshadowing, that while happy endings were possible, they didn't always come in the way you expect, and sometimes they didn't come at all. That doesn't mean we shouldn't keep looking for them. And that doesn't mean I can't appreciate it when Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy find their perfect ending, just because I didn't find mine.

[1] Although I had taken Cinema 101, the class where you watch Citizen Kane (1941) and other such essentials.


johanna said...

a little while back I emailed someone I never talk about, and he's with the same girl that he was with when he called me just before the turn of the century, only now he has a 6 month old daughter and he and his partner are living together.

He tells me that I was one of the great loves of his life and asks me why we never officially dated, that we would have made a nice couple, and I know the answer to that, but I don't tell him because it seems so foreign now. But at that time, I never cared about anyone I dated that much.

The twists and turns of the "relationship" were more important than the real connection between us; and, so there were a few boys who I really cared for that I would never have dreamed of thinking of other than as friends, no matter how strong the attraction...

It's odd, but I think I may have had something similar going on, that idyllic sense of romance that had a wonderful basis in someone else's context, but little in my own life. And that must have come from film and books, for the most part, but why it took me so long to sort all of that out, I'm not sure I'll ever know. But it seems important to try.

Matt Riviera said...


I'm witing to apologize for not participating in your most excellent Lovesick Blog-a-thon. I really wanted to but when I started writing I realized the post would have to be quite personal. And my love life is too much of a mess right now to share with the world.

Alas I am no filmmaker, and dissimulating one's lovesick thoughts behind a blogpost is not quite as endearing and doing so through a film.

I loved your post about Julie Delpy. I fell in love with both Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in the Linklater films, and they have been steady companions in my ruminations on love and relationships for years (unbeknownst to them, bien sur). Actually if I'm honest I'd have to date it back to Dead Poets Society and White respectively.

Our lives can't always be like in the movies, however hard we wish it so...

lucas said...

no worries, Matt. I debated the same thing, wondering if i wanted to get that personal, but then i remembered my motto from my senior year of college: "art as therapy" and that she was a major proponent of that...so...what the hell

as for Julie Delpy, it started with Before Sunrise for me, but Blanc is definitely a major factor as well. i remember seeing Waking Life in the theatre and almost jumping out of my seat during their part.

scot said...

I too wished to participate in this love-sick blogathon but found myself a bit to frustrated with my own jadedness at the moment to write anything that I was happy with.

What a great post on Julie Delpy and Before Sunrise/Sunset though. Any girl that I have remotely been intrested in over the past few years has watched that one of those movies with me. It was always important to me that they took seriously the spontaneous nature of it, and the vague endings. If either seemed to off kilter for them I was always dissapointed and questioned what I saw in the girl in the first place. Which, granted isn't particularly fair, or maybe even mature.

And to this day I will see anything with Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, or Linklater's name attached to it.

johanna said...

it's funny. i realized that you were writing something personal, and that that was a little unusual, but thought nothing of replying openly myself. are women just always assumed to be more open?

at any rate, that i did so without thinking about it says a lot about the strength of your writing and how much you must have loved her. or the potential of your being together. i would be jealous, if I were wiser. or dumber

lucas said...

well, i open the vault, as it were, more than it seems. it just usually is percolating below the surface...

johanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
johanna said...

i'm sorry. i'm so stupid sometimes...i think i must need to get offline for awhile. see ya

Anonymous said...

Julie Delpy: Takes it off in nearly every film. Good for her.

Zaid said...

i wander will it be more or less to speak about these two-twin lively movies (before sunset & before sunrise)!!!!!!! i still wander is there any celene waiting for me to discover!!!!!! if there is any pls this is me.....erazald@gmail.com