This is what happened on The Countess, which Delpy wrote, directed, and starred in between Paris and New York. The movie, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival but had no significant theatrical exposure in the States, is based on the story of Elizabeth BÃ¡thory, a 17th-century noblewoman who allegedly believed the secret to eternal youth lay in bathing in virgin's blood. It's definitely a mixed bag but worth Netflixing for its often darkly funny counterpoint to Delpy's '90s image of near-vampiric sexuality. Delpy admits the film was compromised by behind-the-scenes drama — the financiers, she says, didn't believe in her.
"It's very hard because you make a film that's OK, but it's not exactly what you wanted to do because you've been fighting every day. It's much easier when everyone's on the same side."
Getting everyone on the same side — or at least the same page — remains a hurdle holding up another announced Delpy project, the long-rumored follow-up to Before Sunset. Hawke claimed in June that the third film in the series would shoot this summer, but at our lunch a couple of weeks later, Delpy suggests the production is not a done deal.
"We're in the process of talking about it, but we're not sure 100 percent. It depends on — um, I don't know what it depends on. On everything, on the weather . . ." She trails off. "The problem is getting the three of us in a room to work, to write, and then shoot it. They're not very long films to shoot because it's usually three weeks. It's mostly the two of us. But it's very hard to get the three of us focused on the one thing. So we'll see. Maybe it will happen; maybe not. I hope it will. I don't know."
I ask if she's concerned about talking on the record. "No, it's not that," she says quickly. "It's that, when I don't know, I'm kind of insecure to talk about it. I feel like, OK, what am I talking about? It's kind of a pointless conversation."
She sighs. "My life is really stressful, actually, because I don't know anything, and it's stressing me out like crazy."
We're interrupted by a male executive from a distributor, a competitor of Magnolia Pictures, which is releasing New York in theaters and has already made it available on cable video on demand.
Delpy and the executive kiss hello. "What's going on, darling?" he asks.
"I'm OK. My film's coming out in August," Delpy says.
"Who bought your movie?"
"Magnolia. You guys didn't buy it." She smiles. "You'll regret it!"
"I want to see it! Why didn't we buy it? It's not me. I would have been all for it."
Delpy says, deadpan, "Because there's a black man with a white woman."
She's joking — sort of — but maybe there's a kernel of truth to the accusation, because instead of quipping back, the exec gets slightly defensive. "No, we did, we did, um . . ." He names a Chris Rock film his company distributed, in which there is no interracial relationship.
"Why, then, didn't you do me?" Delpy asks.
I realize she's doing something kind of incredible, in playfully nudging this mundane kiss-kiss Hollywood run-in into the realm of interrogation. The exec is smiling tightly, trying to keep the encounter light, clearly frustrated that she's pressing the issue. It's almost turning into an echo of Marion's conflict with the critic in Delpy's movie: Confronted with an opportunity to help herself via schmoozing, Delpy can't resist a potentially damaging confrontation.
"I don't know, I didn't see, because you didn't . . . when did you show it? In Sundance? I wasn't there," the executive says.
"In Sundance," Delpy confirms. "It was the day Bingham Ray died, so basically no one showed up. And Magnolia was so happy, they bought the film right away. But I'm happy it's Magnolia, actually. I'm very happy. We'll see. Inshallah, like they say in Algeria."
The exec repairs to his table, and Delpy turns back to her vegetarian couscous. "Inshallah, like they say in all those countries that hate Jews."