Mia Hansen-Løve Interview: “The Father of My Children”
As a teenager, 29-year-old writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve was plucked from theater classes at her Paris lycée and cast in Late August, Early September (1998) by Olivier Assayas, a heady experience that would come to shape her future endeavors. After a brief detour into academia, she made a few short films and, like Assayas (to whom she’s now married), briefly contributed to Cahiers du cinéma before embarking more seriously on the path of becoming a film director. Early on, the late producer Humbert Balsan (champion of Elia Suleiman and Claire Denis, among others) took an interest in Hansen-Løve and helped finance her debut feature, All Is Forgiven (2007). Although the seemingly indefatigable Balsan took his own life two years before the film was released, he is a presiding spirit of sorts in Hansen-Løve’s latest, a dialectically structured ode to artistic devotion and familial bonds. [Spoiler ahead.]
Winner of a Special Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes 2009, Hansen-Løve’s briskly paced The Father of My Children trails Paris-based independent film producer Grégoire Canvel (a dynamic Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) through the frenentic routines of his professional and personal life. Canvel’s a man in constant motion, juggling numerous projects and stressful conflicts (teary-eyed actors, a walkout on the set of a Swedish production) while trying to steal time with his increasingly impatient wife Sylvia (Chiara Caselli) and their three daughters, including teenager Clémence (Alice de Lencquesaing). Beset by a chain of quickening financial troubles, Canvel finally confesses to Sylvia that his company, Moon Films, is on the brink of bankruptcy. His next instinctive decision, glimpsed in a scene shocking for its abruptness and brevity, is decisive, leaving Sylvia and kin to grapple with his material and spiritual legacy. Admirable for its lean, limpid style, Father observes the tension between outer calm and inner anguish on either side of that act, with Grégoire’s drive and personal velocity set against quieter, movingly rendered scenes of domestic contentment (a play staged by the youngest daughters, who mock their father’s harried work routine, is wonderful). It’s a sophisticated and poignant story of the often thankless challenges and personal costs of making art. Read the rest of my interview at Filmmaker.