Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Father of My Children (Le pére de mes enfants)

Like Ebert's review of this film, I will use liberty with spoilers, for the same reasons Ebert did there and Sight and Sound did with this film in their article. Just beware... This is not the review to read if you want to "go in cold," as they say, although I already had heard what had happened before I saw the film.

Mia Hansen-Løve's "The Father of My Children" focuses at first on a producer named Grégoire Canvel (Louis-do de Lencquesaing), who's, as my friend as well as the film said, always "on call." When he spends time with his family, he's always thinking about work in the back of his mind, and the moments he has with them are few and far between, although he makes a good father (as my friend said) and although the moments are idyllic. At work, he has many different films going at once, and only one of them seems as if it's a genuine success (the aptly titled "Jackpot"). Everything else is financially disastrous, especially one called "Saturn," by, as Ebert said, a "serious auteur." This film is having somewhat of a financial black hole, and Canvel and his production company Moon Films are being sucked in by it (weird about all the astronomy in this film). This film is all about the monetary side of the cinema. Here, it is seen how much it costs to put a film together, emotionally and financially. The people here don't get to the cinema much, especially Gregoire, though it has been implied that he likes movies.

When it all comes down to the nitty-gritty, this film is all about money. Canvel's wife Sylvia (Chiara Caselli) I'm guessing wants Moon Films to survive, but she also wants Gregoire to enjoy the family vacations. On a certain level, he does, in the way he loves his daughters, Valentine (Alice Gautier), Billie (Manelle Driss), and Clémence (played by de Lencquesaing's real-life daughter, Alice). But his job is all-consuming, and puts him down, and the guy rather selfishly shoots himself because he really can't handle it. There is a shot where he looks at his reflection in his computer that's very disturbing and is perhaps the film's most perturbing image. We see his grief in his actions, but this shot, where he shows it to himself, shows it the most.

What he does doesn't make anything better. Everything just gets worse. There are the same problems at work, except now his family is shattered, especially Valentine (the older of the two smaller daughters). As Ebert says, Sylvia shifts into Gregoire's position as the controller of Moon Films. She opts to try to keep it alive, but it's bound to nosedive to liquidation, especially when some guy reads off the pessimistic fortune of the company.

The first half of the film is ultimately much better than the end. We see more of the smaller kids, whereas in the second half it's all about Clémence and her discovering more about Gregoire's past and getting to do what she wants, etc. I agree with Nick Davis that it is "eloquently humane," and this is nice, until we as the audience see that that's all it is. The film ends so abruptly that it's completely surprising. I guess it ends in the only way that it could have, but I dunno. I, as well as my friend, was expecting a little more catharsis. I think it comes down to the fact that one underestimates the level of importance of a main character, a level that can be discovered when that character dies. B-

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