Film & TV

Julie Delpy Rocks New York

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The art piece puts Marion in contact with Vincent Gallo, playing himself. "The actor, the director, the poet, the fashion model, motorcycle racer, legend," as he refers to himself in the film, is also an expert in self-commodification: His real-life website infamously offers his services as a sperm donor (for natural or artificial insemination) for the price of $1 million. (Gallo's site contextualizes the offering as part of "a conceptual work [of] Internet art [that] questions celebrity, procreation, ego, social agenda, and views of religion, race, and sexuality.")

Delpy doesn't want to say too much about Gallo's one-scene role in her movie because "I think it's more fun to discover." Here's what I'll say: It's the best stand-alone scene in the movie, and not because of the potential shock factor. The gimmick actually gives Delpy the director a shtick-free space away from the juggling act of the narrative so that Delpy the actress can deliver, with subtlety and vulnerability, Delpy the director's insight into the internal life of the character.

Delpy insists the only aspect of the film that's autobiographical is that Marion, like Julie, has since the first film had to live through the death of her mom. "I included it because she was in the first film, and I didn't know how to exclude her without telling the truth," she says. But Marion also struggles with asserting an identity as an artist, as a domestic partner, and as a mom, and this is a conflict that's a part of Delpy's own life since she gave birth in 2009 to a son with her boyfriend of five years, film composer Marc Streitenfeld (Prometheus).

"It's very complicated to be a mother and a creative woman at the same time because it's not just a job I'm going through. It's something I really want to do," Delpy says. "If it weren't that, maybe I wouldn't want to be going back to work. But the minute I started writing again, three months after my son was born, it was like breathing again. It was like being a fish out of water put back in.

"Not everybody understands that," she continues. "I always say, 'Guess why Sylvia Plath put her head in the oven?' It was because she was a creative woman in a world where being a mother was [placed] way above being a creative woman."

Delpy, who edited New York from her L.A. home "with my son coming in and out," is determined not to live in such a world. Part of her conception of being a good mom is making sure motherhood doesn't completely subsume her identity.

"It's not the kid's fault, but the position of being a mother can destroy you creatively," she says. "If you go and write, you feel guilty. So you have to get over that, because in the end, it's not good to have your mom hanging from a tree or, you know, in a mental institution for the rest of her life."

But Sylvia Plath wasn't the first female writer to battle insecurity or to have her own priorities scrambled by societal expectations. Delpy is startlingly straightforward in admitting that she has very recently stood in her own way, even internalizing the external prejudices that she suggests have held her back. According to IMDb, Delpy's next project as director is The Right Profile, a micro-biopic about Joe Strummer's calculated disappearance to France in 1982 before the release of the final original-lineup Clash album, Combat Rock. But she tells me she's no longer involved.

"I was offered to direct [it], because I love the Clash, and I love Joe Strummer," Delpy says. "And then I said no because I got scared, as a woman and as a Frenchwoman, especially, to touch such British subject matter. And then after that, I met the guy that story's based on — because it's about Joe Strummer and a friend, a French friend of his — and actually, he told me, 'You are the best person to do this.'"

"It's stupid," Delpy admits, defeatedly. "But maybe I thought [U.K. financier] Film4 didn't like me. Like I had the feeling they didn't want me to do it because they probably wanted a British director. And I felt, I don't want to fight to do something when I have other things that people want me to do. To fight a company to prove I'm the right person — I've done that too many times, and too many times it turns out negative, and then they're not behind me, and they kind of contradict everything I want to do during the film."

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Karina Longworth