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Father Of My Children Artist. Mentor. Love of my life. A film by Mia Hansen-Løve WINNER Special Jury Prize (Un Certain Regard) Cannes Film Festival 2009 PREMIERE SEASON NOW SHOWING
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FATHER OF MY CHILDREN

Grégoire Canvel (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) has it all – a wife and three delightful daughters he adores and a stimulating job that he's devoted to; he's a film producer. Discovering new talent and developing projects is what drives and fulfills him.

On the surface Grégoire seems invincible, maintaining humour and charm as he juggles the never-ending demands of his company with his domestic responsibilities. But passion can also lead to obstinacy, and when Grégoire's reserves - financial and emotional - reach a dramatic tipping point, his beautiful wife Sylvia (Chiara Caselli) and children share in the repercussions...

Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, director Mia Hanson-Løve's compassionate drama reaffirms her status as one of the most exciting young talents to emerge from France in recent memory. Engaging, restrained and profoundly moving, Father Of My Children offers a rare insight into the joys and challenges of family life, yet is also a must-see experience for anyone with an interest in - or love for - the world of cinema.
 
WINNER Special Jury Prize (Un Certain Regard)
Cannes Film Festival 2009

WINNER Best Screenplay
Lumiere Awards 2010

WINNER Critics' Prize
City of Angels, City of Lights 2010

OFFICIAL SELECTION
2009 Festival de Cannes
2009 Munich Film Festival
2009 Pusan Film Festival
2009 London Film Festival (French Gala)
2009 Toronto Film Festival
2010 New Directors/New Films (New York)
2010 Alliance Française French Film Festival (Australia)
2010 Seattle Film Festival
2010 San Francisco Film Festival
 
5 Stars!
"Deeply intelligent. An outstanding, undemonstrative family drama… Superbly invigorating."
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

5 Stars!
"Superlative. The beat and glow of [the] characters' emotions, always there, make themselves manifest almost without our noticing… We never feel marched towards either a mood or a message, but we always and unforgettably "feel".
Nigel Andrews, The Financial Times (UK)

5 Stars!
"Remarkable. Deceptively quiet… Moving as much for what it doesn't say as what it does."
Anthony Quinn, The Independent (UK)

4 Stars!
"A WONDERFUL FILM about the passion of cinema. Beautifully directed by Hansen-Løve, de Lencquesaing is extraordinarily good as a man being squeezed by the art he loves. What makes it a wonderful film is that for those of us inside this crazy dream factory, and we're only on the edges, it depicts the relentless nature of the beast, the roller-coaster ride, the unstoppable nature of a film in production and the price that's paid for being in the middle of such a life."
Margaret Pomeranz, At The Movies ABC TV

4 Stars!
"URGENT & HUMAN. Unfolds with a surprising sense of calm, inevitability and grace. A work of small details. There's a sense of melancholy, but also of continuity - of something wry, affectionate and full of promise that remains."
Philippa Hawker, The Age

4 Stars!
"EMOTIONAL & INVOLVING. A subtle, soul-filled tale that draws you in like a warm embrace.
Philip De Semlyen, Empire

4 Stars!
"ENGROSSING & MOVING. STARTLINGLY ORIGINAL. It's as if Hansen-Løve wants to challenge the oversimplification of character of which movies are often guilty. Performances, including the children's are all very naturalistic and powerful. Especially compelling viewing."
Nick Dent, The Sunday Telegraph

"VIBRANT. Hansen-Løve captures the chiaroscuro of life in a frank, honest and refreshingly unsentimental fashion… Such fresh-faced performances and tender writing makes for a family who jumps straight off the screen and into your heart."
Alice Tynan, Concrete Playground

"Filled with feeling, so affecting... A tale of cinema that's also a love story about a family."
Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

"Surprises abound! Beautiful, profound and phenomenally full of life."
Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal

"Mia Hansen-Løve has created an extraordinarily empathetic humanistic drama, a film of love, joy, sadness and hope that understands how complex our emotions are and does beautiful justice to them… Places us in the company of characters who are so finely calibrated and accurately portrayed that we forget they are not truly real."
Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

"A tremendous accomplishment... firmly establishes 29-year-old Hansen-Løve as a superlative filmmaker."
Mathieu Ravier, A Life in Film

"Insightful, mature and extremely accomplished… Has brains to spare… Guaranteed not to leave a dry eye in the house."
Jonathan Romney, Screen International

"An absolute must-see for true lovers of cinema, French or otherwise."
Mark Naglazas, The West Australian

4.5 Stars!
"Gifted young French writer Mia Hansen-Løve has vividly brought to life the considerable challenges involved in producing cinema outside of the Hollywood system – and most importantly, given that process an intimately personal face. A mature, perceptive and deeply moving film."
Lynden Barber, ABC Limelight

"Delicate and beautiful. Takes us on an emotional journey in which we experience joy, laughter, sorrow and contemplation. Filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve excels at involving us in miniscule details and makes them all matter. First and foremost, we get to care about the characters."
Louise Keller, Urbancinefile/QANTAS

4 Stars!
"Beautifully-observed. One can imagine how an American telling of such a story would ladle on the sentiment and engineer a happy ending, and a British version would probably be unable to resist staging a more dramatic conflict between Gregoire and his family. But Hansen-Løve prefers to make her points through gesture and nuance and the film is all the better for it."
Jeff Robson, Eye For Film

4 Stars!
"A thoughtfully structured work graced by moments of quiet beauty and exceptional performances."
Tom Dawson, Total Film

4 Stars!
"Sterling. Its resonance isn't forced. Hansen-Løve's style is brusquely observational, building a story from the accretion of pressing details – there are touches of Eric Rohmer, and of her partner, the phenomenal Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep, Summer Hours). A small miracle of emotional access."
Tim Robey, Daily Telegraph (UK)

4 Stars!
"A deep-mining of the Paris bourgeoisie: their country houses, their books, their grammatical correctness."
Kate Muir, London Times

4 Stars!
"A fascinating peek into the workings of the French film industry. A poignant drama, imbued with insight and intelligence."
David Parkinson, Radio Times (UK)

4 Stars!
"Impressive and moving… So gentle is Hansen-Løve's humanism and so light is her touch as a storyteller, both of which recall Eric Rohmer's non-period films… The essence of the film is a welcome compassion and curiosity about inner lives."
Dave Calhourn, Time Out London
 




Please note that this interview with writer/director
Mia Hansen-Løve (pictured left) contains reference to some of
the major plot developments that take place in the film,
and thus may spoil your enjoyment of it.


It is strongly recommended that you return to read this interview
only after you have seen the film!

PROCEED TO INTERVIEW
INTERVIEW WITH WRITER/DIRECTOR MIA HANSEN-LØVE

How did you get the idea for the movie? Where did the inspiration come from?
The film stems from my encounter with Humbert Balsan. I first met him in early 2004. He died in February 2005. He wanted to produce my first film. His enthusiasm and trust were decisive for me in Tout est pardonné. I didn't write this movie out of gratitude, however, but because of Humbert Balsan's personality. He had exceptional warmth, elegance and aura. His energy, passion for films and sensitivity, which I took to be an invincible inner beauty, are what made me write the movie. Of course, there is also his suicide. The feelings of failure and despair that it reveals are overwhelming, but that doesn't replace the rest. It doesn't become the only truth. I wanted the film to express the paradox of contradictory movements within the same person, the conflict that can occur between light and darkness, strength and vulnerability, the desire to live and the urge to die.

We get the feeling you knew him very well, or well enough to understand what drove him, while depicting him as a fairly secretive character.
In the year I knew him, I must have met him about fifteen times at the most, so I hardly knew him. I didn't try to find out more. The aim wasn't to make a biopic! I let my feelings and intuitions guide me, without trying to verify that they conformed to reality. I tried to be as exact and truthful as possible in my portrayal of independent cinema in France, but I did no research into Humbert Balsan's private life, of which I knew nothing. I believe that my distance from and complete ignorance of it enabled me to feel free, to write a work of fiction. Moreover, I wanted Grégoire Canvel's suicide to remain a mystery to some extent. The enigma interested me more than elucidating it. Of course, there is a context that is far from banal: bankruptcy. The context is crucial, but takes nothing away from the mystery of a human being who is capable of such an act, of such self-destructive violence. Thus, more than an essential clue, the story of Grégoire Canvel's love child is a metaphor for secrecy and, moreover, of the idea that secrets are nothing compared to what is deep down, which remains elusive.
A last word on the inspiration for the film: Humbert Balsan may be the source, but I wouldn't have written Le Père de mes enfants if I hadn't seen his wife, Donna Balsan, in his company offices the day after Humbert's death. Her calm and stoicism were astonishing. Donna wasn't Humbert, but it was as if part of that charisma lived on. When I wrote the script, I had only seen Donna a couple of times—she was a stranger, but it was her luminous presence that made me want to make the movie.

At the same time, you have made a film about the cinema or the world of cinema. You emphasize the collective and very tangible aspects of the process, the preparation of a shoot, financial difficulties, with the focus on a pivotal character, the producer.
A few years ago, no theme would have struck me as less stimulating for a movie than independent cinema. Probably by being too close to home, too mundane... But that encounter with Humbert Balsan and his death changed all that and gave me a completely different perspective on the cinema. And it occurred to me that a film about a producer could be a film about work, commitment, love and life. Most often, when I see a producer on screen, I don't see the cinema as I understand it and experience it as part of my daily life. It's more a far-removed fantasy. So, it was even more gratifying to depict the cinema through my perspective and experience because it offered an empty canvas and fascinating raw material for human relationships.
Money is such an important issue in the movie, I think, because it's the reality. Whichever way you look at it, the producer's job is synonymous with financial concerns. Filmmakers share this preoccupation but not in the same way, nor to the same extent, because the dangers to which it exposes them are different. A filmmaker has a relatively fundamental and healthy relationship to money: being constantly confronted with financial realities is the price to pay for practicing your art. For a producer, chasing after funding can become alienating and lead to a dilemma (I'm referring here to producers who aim to produce the work of artists). On the one hand, there's a noble, ambitious vision of their trade; and on the other, huge loneliness, and economic and moral suffocation due to the constant pressure that comes from taking risks in a context that is relatively unfavorable economically and culturally.

Your film shows a man of charisma at his peak. The character has an aura, lots of charm. But difficulties add up and you show him subsiding, being crushed.
I'd say that his doubts and despondency are there at the start, under the surface and occasionally visible in Louis-Do de Lencquesaing's expressions and silences. But generally they're soaked up in the pleasure he gets from his job and the company of his wife and daughters.
Even so, anxiety and lassitude creep forward until, just before his suicide, Grégoire Canvel is overwhelmed by despair, which is even more powerful because it has been powerfully repressed. The film tries to show how this life force—his extraordinary capacity to repress things—eventually becomes a terribly self-destructive force.

One of the characters, the young man who gives Grégoire his script, is you to some extent...
Of course, I appear in the character of Arthur, but this young filmmaker could just as easily be someone else. Above all, it shows the vital need Grégoire Canvel feels to keep moving forward and keep taking risks despite his terrible difficulties. It's reaching out to youth and to the future.
But the encounter with Arthur is brief, leaving a sense of unfinished business that, for me, resonates with Tout est pardonné, in which the heroine loses her father just after being reunited with him. In both cases, there's the sense of something being passed on, the hope that a secret bond will survive his demise.
The young future director is also there to express the birth of a vocation. It's never quite so explicit but I think the idea is present in the film. The beauty of being a producer, as Grégoire Canvel considers his profession, lies in the acuity of his intuition and understanding of the vocation and vision of the filmmakers he wants to support. Similarly, being seen, understood and sought after by a producer can give a young filmmaker a formidable boost. I wanted to evoke this quasi-amorous relationship and demonstrate its effect, which is why Arthur, the character, continues to exist and even grows in importance after the producer's death.

How did you choose Louis-Do de Lencquesaing to play the lead?
I only began to think about who would play the part after the script was finished. I couldn't imagine it being someone very well known because that would go against the story. There's an incognito aspect to the character—he's in the wings, not the spotlight—that I couldn't betray.
Very soon, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, whom I'd seen in several films and plays, became the obvious choice. He's an excellent actor but, above all, I don't see anybody else with his aristocratic bearing, which was essential for the role. We'd already met and I knew he'd have the charisma to play Grégoire Canvel. Moreover, I sensed that by looking for it I'd find what goes hand in hand with that charisma—suffering, concealed but deep-rooted suffering.
He immediately understood where I wanted to take him and in table-reads, he hit the right tone very quickly. But discussions and prep work don't build the essence of the character—that comes on the shoot, at the moment of shooting. In this case, in Grégoire's hyperactivity. You act differently if you're seated than if you have to close a door, open a window, check emails, send texts, initial a contract or sign a check while delivering your lines.

The role of his wife is very important, in the background at first, then crucial. You gave the part to an Italian actress, Chiara Caselli. What can you tell us about her and her character?
It took me some time to find Chiara Caselli. I didn't want Sylvia to be French and thus to be from the same world as Grégoire Canvel. Firstly, it fits Grégoire to be married to a foreigner—it feels logical. And secondly, it's a consideration that emphasizes her courage and fragility after Grégoire's death. Her commitment to Moon Films until the company is liquidated is given particular value by the fact that you sense she won't take root and, at the end of the film, she talks about going back to Italy. However, she serves a cause that isn't hers despite already knowing how it will most likely end. Perhaps she thinks she doesn't have any choice, but in fact, for her, it's about seeing something through to the end. It's also about actively staying with Grégoire—a way of achieving closure, most probably.
After I spent a long time looking, Chiara's face appeared and appealed to me. She radiated a peculiar beauty, character and a certain intransigence. After that, I saw some of her films and met her in Rome several times. My impression was always the same: solidity, calm and intelligence. That's how I pictured Sylvia. There is also, in Chiara, a flicker of discreet melancholy that seems to escape her, although her character says the opposite. I liked that. It was lucky that Chiara speaks excellent French, because that was vital even though it's not what led me to her. On the shoot, Chiara devoted herself to her character and showed blind trust in me, for which I'm very grateful.

The death occurs about halfway through the film. It's an impressive choice to film bereavement and the way each person gets on with their life...
More than bereavement, I'd say the film talks about starting over. That's why the death occurs in the middle, not at the end or beginning. This symmetrical structure is putting into practice, reflecting the sense of starting over. The producer's death isn't the end of the story, it's a central moment in a story that goes beyond his death. The film can also be seen as the last days of Moon Films, a production company and a life's work that is both personal and collective.

The children play a very important role in the film. They must each find a way to overcome their loss. For the oldest child, Clémence (Alice de Lencquesaing), that means breaking into the movies...
Coming off Tout est pardonné, I couldn't imagine not working with children again. I wanted to keep that momentum going, take it further. On set, the children's presence and subsequent disorder, their happiness and fragility are extremely precious. They're an amazing breath of fresh air in what can be a stifling atmosphere. Their role in the film is close to what they represent for me! Each child grieves differently, and these differences became clearer on set depending on their age and personality.
At the end of the movie, Clémence becomes more prominent, almost the lead character. It reflects the emancipation that is taking shape. Emancipation but also the assumption of a spiritual legacy, as suggested by the bond that develops with Arthur, the young filmmaker. In that respect, this film mirrors my first feature.

Like in Tout est pardonné, the prevailing feeling in your second film is one of clarity. People and things take on an amazing light, even in spiritual terms.
In any case, clarity is what I consciously set out to achieve. The word became essential for me when I started writing about films. I seem to remember reading a text by Eric Rohmer in which he quotes Stendhal as referring to the "slightly abrupt clarity" that might define French art. I look for clarity because it's what moves me, what gives me the sense of accessing a vital something, the infinite part of each being and each thing, without style getting in the way. Although I don't believe in God, for me, the cinema can't be anything other than a quest for light, which is a quest for the invisible.

Interview by Serge Toubiana.

MIA HANSEN-LØVE was born in 1981. She began her career as an actress, and was cast by Olivier Assayas in Late August, Early September (1998) and Les destinées sentimentales (2000) before she began formal training at the Paris Conservatoire d'Art Dramatique in 2001. From 2003-2005, Mia wrote for the Cahiers du Cinéma and directed several short films. Father of my children (Le père de mes enfants) is her second feature after her 2006 debut All is Forgiven (Tout est pardonné).
 
CAST

Grégoire - Louis-Do de Lencquesaing
Sylvia - Chiara Caselli
Clémence - Alice de Lencquesaing
Valentine - Alice Gautier
Billie - Manelle Driss
Serge - Eric Elmosnino
Valérie - Sandrine Dumas
Bérénice - Dominique Frot
Kova Asimov - Djamshed Usmonov
Arthur Malkavian - Igor Hansen-Løve
Stig Janson - Magne Håvard Brekke
Accountant - Eric Plouvier
Banker - Mickaël Abiteboul
Film Laboratory Manager - Philippe Paimblanc
Administrator - André Marcon

CREW

Direction & Screenplay - Mia Hansen-Løve
Cinematographer - Pascal Auffray
Sound - Vincent Vatoux & Olivier Goinard
Production Design - Mathieu Menut
Script editor - Clémentine Schaeffer
Editor - Marion Monnier
Casting - Elsa Pharaon
Costumes - Bethsabée Dreyfus
Makeup/hair - Raphaële Thiercelin
Production Manager - Hélène Bastide
 
 
M - Mature themes
Palace Films, Australia