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Julie Delpy on 'Lolo,' parental anxieties and fearing Trump

The actor and filmmaker says she wanted her new film to look mainstream but be dark and messed-up.
Julie DelpyLolo

Talking to Julie Delpy isn’t that far from talking to Celine from the “Before Sunrise” films. Like her characer, she’s talkative and opinionated and she punctures her prickly pronouncements with deep laughs. She has a lot to say about her new film “Lolo,” which she directed, co-wrote and stars in. In the comedy, she plays a single mother whose titular teenage son (Vincent Lacoste) likes to sabotage his mom’s boyfriends, including her slightly dorky latest conquest (played by French superstar Dany Boon). It’s a slicker film than others she’s directed, like “2 Days in Paris” and its New York-set sequel — but it doesn’t hold back on Delpy’s sharp personality.

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The “2 Days” movies were all shot with jerky handheld cameras, whereas this is more clean and...
More sturdy. I wanted a film where the craziness didn’t come from the form. I wanted it to be based in dialogue, and in a way that made the film more accessible to a broader audience in France. It’s a French movie, so it’s mostly made for a French audience. But at the same time I wanted to trick them into listening to stuff that’s completely not mainstream. [Laughs] If I had done it handheld it would be something that’s more indie, and a certain kind of people would never see it. It looks mainstream and it’s a farce, but with a twist, and it’s politically incorrect and it’s kind of a f—ed-up and it’s dirty, dirty, dirty.

Lolo is an older teenager, whereas your own son is only seven.
Obviously my son is the sweetest. He’s a little bunny, basically. There’s no comparison to Lolo, and this film has nothing do with my personal life. But it’s this idea — I’ve seen so many friends give all their love to their grown-up kids. And the kids turn out to be something they don’t expect. And that’s not necessarily a good thing. [Laughs] They give all their love, all their care, all the education. A friend of mine called me and said, “My kid is 18 and it’s like having a stranger in my house. I don’t know who he is and I’m scared of him.” [Laughs] That’s a fear of every parent. I mean, I have it because I’m a neurotic and I have every fear. That’s possible.

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One of many, many reasons I’ve never had kids is because I’m terrified they’ll turn out to be monsters.
Let’s say a good 60 percent turn out to be what you expect them to be. And then there’s 40 percent where you don’t know what you have. It’s funny, I’m co-raising my son, and he’s extremely sweet and has a lot of empathy for others. So I don’t have that fear that he has a lack of empathy or a sociopathic-narcissistic personality. I think that starts early. And I know a sociopath. He doesn’t even understand when someone else is hurt. It’s a form of malfunction — a weird chemical imbalance. Which is very good in our society, apparently, because sociopaths do very well. They have no feelings about hurting others. It works perfectly with capitalism. [Laughs]

Well, we might be electing a sociopath for president.
[Laughs] Well, that’s another issue. That’s very scary. A completely ruthless businessman. I hope it doesn’t happen. Because having two sociopaths in two of the biggest countries, which is Russia and America, would be a lethal cocktail.

Going back to this movie’s sociopath, Lolo isn’t just one of those. He has apparent Oedipal longings, too.
Yeah, it’s an Oedipal complex. But at the same time, the minute she doesn’t have anyone he just disappears. It’s just about convenience. That’s why I think he’s more of a sociopath, because Oedipus has a certain passion for his mother. Lolo’s passion is he wants her for himself. But he’s like a spoiled brat: “I want my toy because you’re playing with it now, but I wouldn’t play with it otherwise.” It’s a bit sadder than Oedipus. At least Oedipus is crazy in love with his mother. It’s almost more lame and modern.

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Given how often small French films make it over to America, I always get this impression they’re not hard to make. But I am almost certainly wrong, so please correct me.
No movie is easy to make. It’s always hard to finance a film. Some films are simpler than others. A first film is always hard, for example. A drama is always hard. Trust me, I know people who are extremely talented directors who have a hard time in France making films. Same with American directors. Making films is hard and I’m blessed I’m able to make them. Sometimes I complain about inequality blah blah blah, but the truth is I’m lucky, because it’s hard for everyone — not just women, everyone. That this was a comedy made it easier to get financed. This was not insane.

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You’re also developing a streaming show, though some services are actually making films now, too. Indies are in a very strange state of flux right now.
Well, you know what’s interesting is all those streaming companies financing feature films they will also release in theaters — they’re actually getting closer to the French system, which is really amazing at producing independent films. You’ll start having really great films out there. There’s a lot of hope for independent American cinema. Because it’s been hard for American independent cinema for years now. It’s not right, and it’s not fair. It’s great cinema. Independent cinema was doing so well in the ’90s. I mean, you wouldn’t have someone like [Richard] Linklater if he was 20 years old starting out now.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

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