French filmmaker Julie Delpy is one smart woman. Not only does she move with ease from projects between Hollywood and Europe, she produces, writes directs and stars in her own films. Her latest is Lolo, the heartbreaking and yet hugely entertaining drama about a single mother and her search for love is a massive hit France and lands on our shores June 3. It’s a romantic comedy that breaks the rules about how we interact in our most important relationships. Delpy balances the funny stuff with the unmasking of the person who has caused failures in her love life for almost twenty years. We spoke with the talented M. Delpy from Los Angeles.
Lolo is a romantic comedy but there’s a real bite to it, a real twist.
I had fun with it because I wanted to do a comedy with a dark side. I wanted to write a thriller like The Bad Seed, a film from the 50’s, a romantic comedy version of it. It’s about how this couple had a bad seed and how they face this evil child when someone dies. Did they do something wrong? It’s like that. She’s in her forties and she meets Jean-Rene and finally love is possible and her son Lolo makes it impossible. Everything could be with them in a different world but the problem is in the son, who is kind and cool at first until his true self emerges.
One thing that’s sacred in film generally speaking is that the mother and son bond is loving and based on good will. Lolo blast that idea out of the water.
I wanted to make sure that it was not about an Oedipus complex that’s passionate and that he loves her physically. It’s not like that. He’s more like a modern version, a reflection of the world in which everyone’s turning into a sociopath for self-gain, and using people. A world where the minute Jean-Rene isn’t interested in her anymore, Lolo’s no longer interested in her. It’s like society, using and throwing away. It’s clear that it’s not the passion of Oedipus, its destruction and self, it’s about him.
Lolo verges on mental illness and hide sit form his mother. He’s a rarity. How did you create him?
I was inspired by a few people I know, outside my own son. Lolo is unlike my 7 year old who worries for others. Psychologists that say a child before three has no sense of others about him and feeds himself. Lolo is like a child that never grew psychologically and never had empathy. I was also inspired by people I know who are sociopaths in the movie business, set on self-gain. A lot of people are devoid of empathy about their selfishness. They destroy and are mischievous and use people’s weakness to deceive. It’s very Machiavellian. Actors can be sociopaths; they are usually charming and look friendly. Men and women, it’s the same no matter what.
Violette has been abandoned more than seems possible and she blames herself. How was she so blinded to Lolo’s extreme jealousy?
That’s why I made it a son and not a co-worker or ex or friend, because there is nothing more difficult than knowing your own flesh and blood is like that. It’s hard to even see it. Even when Jean-Rene accuses Lolo she doesn’t hear. That’s because there is not a second when Lolo gives it away. He’s very good, uses her weakness. It’s not what he appears to be doing. It’s using how he is to work through her weaknesses. Remember the hamster joke with the little hand putting on the sweater? He’s a little boy destroying a sweater.
You’re a smart woman, working both in Europe and Hollywood and working for yourself, not deferring to a studio.
It sounds like a good plan but it’s still always hard to make a movie. Each film is hard. Right now I’m putting together a few films and each is a struggle like Sisyphus every day of my life, trying to keep on top of it. I think there is something, no matter how successful Lolo was in France, every one is a challenge. You have to prove yourself again and again. It’s not easy.
And this was not your everyday romcom.
In France there is a financial structure around forever, but it’s even more scared to take risks on something interesting and original. It’s interesting is that financiers will take the middle of the road story and the film goes nowhere. People don’t want to see it.
Instead of taking things that are more out there they’ll take the middle. I had a problem on Lolo in Paris. People said it was too crazy, not cute enough. And what made the success of the film was that it was more real and cruel and harsh and funny. It was successful. It took me awhile and even after the film was made, distributors nervous but the crazy parts made it successful.