“My Zoe”, in theaters June 30, is Julie Delpy’s seventh directorial feature. In this dramatic and mutant work, she plays a geneticist who fights for custody of her daughter after a complicated divorce. We went to meet the most daring of our film ambassadors.
In 7 films, she has established herself as an important contemporary filmmaker. Julie Delpy, 51, escapes all labels. And that’s probably why we love him so much. For his freedom, his outspokenness, his sparkling way of flirting with conventions. He is a free electron who has entered the territory of directing with obvious curiosity and a clear taste for experimentation. Evidenced by the large gap between The Countess or The Skylab. This year, with My Zoe, she dares the drama in three acts by camping a geneticist who wraps up with her ex while her daughter, sick, enters the hospital. Interview.
“A mother’s love has no limit“is your movie’s tagline. It really doesn’t have any? Have you ever questioned those limits?
Julie Delpy: My idea of motherly love has no limits. In my eyes, it’s stronger than anything. Afterwards, we must not suffocate the children either, but let them live (laughs). Otherwise, it is not love but rage. I do not want to suffocate my son and have lots of problems later. But my love for him is constant, he never tarnishes, he is in no way affected by whatever he does, even when he drives me crazy. I experienced a little that with my parents, we sometimes get meat. And that’s normal. It’s healthy to argue.
“It’s healthy to argue”
Does the mother in the film look like you in her nuclear side, wolf?
Julie Delpy: Mother bear, rather! She is very present. Someone recently showed me a video of my son and me. He was a year and a half, was in his little chair, very small, very cute, very baby. I was chatting with people in a cafe. And we see me touching it constantly, like a blanket, hair, nose, big cheeks, mouth, eyes … In the movies, when we take children who are not ours, we have a little afraid of physical contact. Which is normal, because they are not our children. Suddenly, I reassured the parents of the little one who plays my daughter by telling them that I was going to touch her a lot. I wanted to translate something real that you don’t always see in the cinema.
Apparently you are inspired by the things your son tells you. Like what for example ?
Julie Delpy: He’s always been telling me wonderful things, but that I can’t even put in movies because everyone would say: “Whoa, who does she think she is?“. He evokes in depth the meaning of life, the infinite, the universe … It’s fascinating. He confuses me. At 4, he asked me:”Mom, what is a whore?“(laughs) And it goes from that to:”What was there before the Big Bang? Where do we come from?“His questions provoke things in the teachers. It’s clear, precise and strong.
My Zoe seems to arouse themes that touch you …
Julie Delpy: I had the idea for this film for a long time. The death of my mother, the birth of my son and my separation which was extremely difficult made me want to write something dark. I can’t deny it. Without being autobiographical, it is a personal project from an emotional point of view.
The construction of the film is done in three stages, as if it mutated each time, to better represent its hybridization …
Julie Delpy: I really wanted three chapters to tell the story. Like a tragedy. And three universes, notably at the level of space-time. The topics are: couple separation, expectation and drama, rebirth. All this with different notions of time. In the middle, we are for example in a stretch with the waiting rooms, the hospital, etc… And towards the end, there are more ellipses… Each segment has the same duration but differs on the feeling of time.
We also feel that you apprehend this work as an object of scientific study … You are clearly in a form of genre experimentation …
Julie Delpy: (laughs) Yes, you are right. People don’t dare to do that. Me, I wanted to change my style because it is not conventional. It leaves the viewer unstable and more open to unusual emotion. I create an emotion by confusing instead of playing on the usual clichés, like music to make you cry. Here, we are not at all in the melodrama.
How do you find the profession of geneticist? Isn’t that a bit dizzying?
Julie Delpy: If I weren’t in the cinema, I would have been a scientist. I was very good at science, biology… I come from a family of doctors, apart from my father. That would have been my research thing, whatever the form. It’s fascinating, terrifying, interesting… There are terrible and fantastic things. I recently did my genetic progeny test. No surprises (laughs). As expected, I am Breton, French, Italian, Spanish and a little bit from East Africa.
“I am afraid of dying, afraid of an end, of the loss of consciousness …“
Are you more of the type to let nature do or control it?
Julie Delpy: What does that mean to let nature do? Does that mean that we do not take medication, that we do not treat ourselves, that we do not have a vaccine…? We are still animals who have transcended our natural condition. We created drugs, we built shelters… We don’t eat a baby with a broken leg, like other animals, but we help it… We help the one we should let die… On the question of evolution is dangerous… I would say that it is the quality of life that must be improved. It can still be nice to die at age 80 in good health. I’m going to die, that’s for sure. Besides, I don’t think I have very good health. I know it… On the other hand, I’m afraid of dying, afraid of a finality, of loss of consciousness, I must have had a hard time managing that. I would lose my consciousness before my body.
Julie Delpy: No idea… I think everything stops and everything becomes an eternity. The passage to death makes one remain in a state of eternity.
“In Hollywood, I am scared because I am free”
If you could turn things around in one small action, which one would you take?
Julie Delpy: Even if everything is relative, I had a difficult life, of resistance, in a profession where you had to fight all the time to keep your integrity. I have been broken a lot of times, broken, I have a lot of enemies because I have told the truths. I wouldn’t change a thing but it would still have been nice if I was born 20 years later. The fighting would have been different. It would have been less hard for me. I wrote my first screenplay at 16 and made my first film at 36. There have been 20 years of waiting… Maybe that’s what forged me. But it would have been nice not to have to fight so hard.
“I always feel like people hate me”
In Le Figaro, you said : “I shoot less in other people’s films. Nobody loves Me !“You said the same to The Guardian concerning Hollywood. But suddenly, who loves you?
Julie Delpy: Nobody (laughs). I don’t know what it is, if it’s a hate… In Hollywood, I’m scared because I’m free. Freedom is not something they like. On #MeToo, I opened it before everyone else and I got badly seen because of it. Now it’s been digested but they still have a bad taste in the mouth from what I said. Same in France… I always have the impression that people hate me. Maybe I’m paranoid. I’m a bit special, eh (laughs). My father always tells me since childhood, a little taciturn and… special, yes…
“I’m not very social, I’m bad at networking”
Would you say that you reject the great family of French cinema?
Julie Delpy: It’s impossible for me to be a snob, in the movement of, I don’t know how to do that… To do otherwise than what I do. I don’t see things like that. Since I was little, I have always been on the margins. I am not doing it on purpose. It’s not to be smart, it’s almost a form of handicap that I’ve managed to turn into something positive. At school, I was always put at the back of the class because I couldn’t speak. I’m not very social, I’m bad at networking… I never say what to say, I tell everyone what I think of them. That’s why I don’t see any films in Cannes (laughs). I am the reverse of what it is necessary to be in the cinema. It’s good for me to be in LA… That way I don’t go to parties in LA or in France. No one asks me to do anything. I can’t be in society with people I don’t know!