According to Steve Rose of The Guardian, 2 Days in New York is a “delightfully eccentric comedy . . . big on laughs, low on pretense, exaggerated but emotionally sincere.” The film is a sequel to 2 Days in Paris, and features some of the same characters, including Marion, the hilariously neurotic compulsive liar played by director Julie Delpy.
Delpy studied filmmaking at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, but is best known for her work as an actress in films like Europa, Europa, Before Sunrise, Killing Zoe, and the television series ER. 2 Days in Paris earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Feature.
Also returning was Lubomir Bakchev, AFC, a Bulgarian-born cinematographer whose credits also include The Secret of the Grain, Black Venus, Le roman de ma femme, Calm at Sea, and Le Skylab, which Delpy also directed and acted in.
Bakchev shot to 2 Days in Paris in HD format using a Sony HDW-F750, a camera with a 2/3-inch chip. For 2 Days in New York, “Julie wanted a 35 mm look,” he says. “I thought the ARRI Alexa would allow us to shoot digital and achieve a film look. I also felt that the Alexa’s wide latitude – 13 stops – would help with the range of skin tones in the movie, and that the camera’s sensitivity would help us move quickly.
“The new film is a bit more sophisticated, with more shots done on dollies with tracks and less handheld camera,” he says. “Because it’s a comedy, we didn’t want to create strong contrast, and Julie wanted to make sure the audience could see the actors well. I thought the Alexa might be the right camera for this movie, and as it turned out, it was.”
Jean-Jacques Neira, who served as producer on the film, felt that in addition to cinematic images, the Alexa delivered efficiencies throughout the production.
“In addition to images being recorded to hard drives, the Alexa also gave us a very light, easy-to-handle downconversion that allowed us to keep our producing partners in France, Belgium and Germany informed about what was happening on the set in New York,” says Neira. “It was much handier than DVD dailies and overnight packages. And when it came to postproduction, the ProRes files were extremely flexible and easy to translate from one machine to another, which saved us a lot of time.
“Of course, these attributes are in addition to the most important advantages of the Alexa,” says Neira. “It delivers very high quality images, saves time on the set, and the director has a direct impression of the footage as she is working on the set.”
In addition to Delpy, 2 Days in New York stars Chris Rock, Albert Delpy, Alexia Landeau and Alexandre Nahon. In the story, Marion has left behind her lover and moved to the city with her son. Her new American boyfriend, played by Rock, and her eccentric French family make for a combustible mix. Racial insensitivities and sexual hang-ups lead to smart comedy. Adding to the stress is Marion’s imminent photo exhibit.
The film was made on a quick 30-day schedule, entirely on practical locations in New York City. Where possible, Bakchev used existing natural light. In other situations, like a Brooklyn loft that was dressed to portray Marion’s apartment, Bakchev lit from overhead to facilitate Delpy’s improvisational approach to directing, with versatility and efficiency in mind.
“We could shoot 360 degrees, and we could adapt to any angle or scene by switching a few lights off and a few others on,” he says.
Bakchev usually set the Alexa for 800 ASA, and he used Zeiss Ultra Prime lenses. “I often shoot with Zeiss,” he says. “I like the sharpness of these lenses. We didn’t need Master Primes, because with 800 ASA, we don’t need the big aperture. Outside in New York, I shot with no additional light at a stop of 2 or 2.8.”
Bakchev generally used the 35 mm and the 50 mm. “With framing a bit wider, it’s more natural and funny, not so intense,” Bakchev says. “When we are too close, it’s more stressful. I like the 35 mm lens – if we had only one lens to shoot the movie, I’d choose that one. In situations like the art exhibit, we wanted to be able to see the artwork in the background, and maintain that context in the shot.”
On the set, the DIT applied preset LUTs to the images. The on-set monitor was an important tool given that Delpy was acting in most scenes and Bakchev was operating the camera.
“I always operate my camera,” he says. “I really love to feel the actors and react. It’s more natural for me. It would be very difficult for me to give up the camera and just watch. Under the right circumstances, the on-set monitor can enhance creativity, because we can speak more specifically with the director, and take the images further.”
2 Days in New York premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, screened at Tribeca, and hit theaters in France in March. The film will open theatrically in the US in August.
Bakchev recently finished principal photography on a French film directed by and starring Agnés Jaoui, Un jour mes princes viendront (Someday, my prince will come). He is prepping an Italian documentary, and considering shooting it on the Alexa.
“I can see that the Alexa’s latitude and sensitivity would also be very good in documentary situations,” he says.
Delpy, meanwhile, has hinted in the press that she is leaving behind acting in favor of writing and directing. She is currently in preproduction on her next directing project, The Right Profile, reportedly a biopic about Joe Strummer, the late frontman of the iconic British punk band The Clash.
See the trailer here: http://bit.ly/P9f3DY