Julie Delpy • Director
by Juan Arteaga
21/09/2011 - French actress-director Julie Delpy appeared for the first time in competition at the San Sebastian Film Festival with Skylab [trailer], a funny and upbeat ensemble comedy about the family and her childhood summers, which met with much laughter and applause from the audience and trade press.
Cineuropa: When family matters are explored in cinema it’s almost always through dramas or problems but you offer an optimistic perspective in your film. Where does such a luminous vision of the family come from?
Julie Delpy: My mother died two years ago and I wanted to sort of pay homage to her but without lapsing into gloominess. I wanted to make a brighter and more optimistic memorial. Families aren’t perfect but, at the same time, family is everything. If you read any psychology book, it will tell you that when you stop blaming your parents you will start to grow as a person. There are, without doubt, families in which terrible things happen but if yours isn’t one of them, problems will lessen and you’ll only grow when you stop blaming others.
The different characters are very well shaped and put together in the story. How was the scriptwriting process?
I started writing the script in 2001, I abandoned it to focus on several film shoots and I eventually finished it in 2009. My aim was to write a script not based on a narrative but on characters. The whole process was difficult. I did about 20 drafts of the script; afterwards I had to choose the actors and the shoot was complicated too. During the editing, I tried to shorten the film but some characters ceased to exist. The challenge was bringing all the characters to life in a balanced way.
Why do you use the Skylab as a metaphor in the film?
I wanted to use the metaphor of something big which threatens the Earth when in reality everything is happening down here. Life is a bit like that: people worry about things of great magnitude when what are important are the little dramas of everyday life.
Many current French films, for example Olivier Assayas’s Summer Hours [trailer], centre around family reunions. Why is there this strand in French cinema?
I haven’t seen many French films lately but it could be that when you reach a certain age, you start to look back, at your family and those sorts of questions. My family isn’t perfect but I want to thank them, in some way, for the wonderful summers I spent in Brittany.
What led you to present the film in competition at San Sebastian?
The festival got in contact with me. I knew it was a very prestigious festival but I also know that comedies don’t do well at festivals and very often they’re not even selected. It’s much more difficult to make a comedy than a drama but festivals tend to pick dramas, so it’s a risk being at the festival.
Your combined career as an actress and director is quite unusual in French cinema. What are your views on how your career has evolved?
It’s becoming more and more common in French cinema but 15 years ago it was very difficult because nobody took me seriously as an actress and director. It was very hard for me to get funding for my projects. Now it’s more common and things have improved for women film directors in France.
In the dialogues in your films, politics and sex are always present either as a dramatic or comic counterpoint.
That’s true, because the two things interest me a great deal.
After an interlude with The Countess [trailer] you’ve returned to comedy. Do you feel more at ease with this genre?
I like the challenge of making people laugh. Psychologically, it’s good for me because in my life there have been some very dark periods, so I prefer to focus on the lighter elements. I’d like every day to be bright although I know it won’t be like that. That’s my choice.