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Mia Hansen-Løve Tends to Her “Children”

Mia Hansen-Løve Tends to Her “Children” (photo)

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Mia Hansen-Løve may initially seem like an odd person to make a film about the death of a film producer. Although the young actress-cum-director has been intimately involved in the world of cinema since her appearance at the age of 18 in director Olivier Assayas’s “Late August, Early September” (1998) (she even wrote for the iconic journal Cahiers du Cinéma for a while), she freely confesses to not being a big cinephile: “My life and my work aren’t really about films and the film world,” she says. But — perhaps in the same way that Assayas (now her fiancé, and the father of her child) has made films about the way business and industry infiltrates the lives of the people around it — she turns out to have a compelling approach to this subject matter.

Based around the 2005 suicide of legendary French producer Humbert Balsan, “The Father of My Children” is a remarkably matter-of-fact detailing of the events leading up to, and following, the death of an acclaimed though financially troubled film producer. With its refusal to sentimentalize or analyze its characters and their motivations, it may seem cold at first glance, but there’s a lot of humanity here. Indeed, it’s a film more about the business of living than about the business of death. The central character may be the producer, but one could argue that the real protagonists of the film are those he leaves behind — his family and, most notably, his troubled company. While Hansen-Løve was in New York, she spoke about the difficulties of making a film set in the film business and when she first wanted to become a filmmaker.

How closely does “The Father of My Children” stick to the story of Humbert Balsan and his suicide?

The story that’s most truthful here is that of the film production company — the kinds of films they were making, the atmosphere there, and the last days leading to the bankruptcy. And the character of the producer is very close to his aura, his energy and his way of being. But the things around him — his personal life, his family — those are fictional.

05272010_FatherofMyChildren1.jpgThe film resists psychoanalyzing the character, which is relatively rare in a film about suicide. His death comes as quite a surprise when it happens.

It was very conscious on my part not to make this a psychological analysis of this character. I wanted to show the path of his life up to this suicide, but to do it in a very precise way, to take a more objective, outside view. If you try to do it from a psychological point of view, there are always things that are going to escape you. His death was something that belonged to him — we really can’t grasp it.

For example, in the scene where we see him burn some letters, a lot of people ask, “What was in those letters?” And we don’t know — that’s something he takes with him. To see him burn the letters, but to not see what was in the letters, I felt was a way of showing that this choice belongs to him. And I didn’t want to make a film where everything leads to the suicide, and everything is supposed to explain it. I wanted it to be a surprise — in real life, that’s usually how it happens.

In a way, the film isn’t really about suicide. It’s more about unfinished business and the things he leaves behind. We don’t even see any of the mourning that happens after he dies.

05272010_FatherofMyChildren5.jpgWhen we were looking for the financing, I told people, “It’s a film about the last days of a film company, and I’d like to make Moon Film [the suicidal producer’s production company] the main character of the film.” People usually ask me, “Why did you make him die in the middle?” The way the film is structured, it’s not a film that changes a lot after the suicide happens. The rhythm basically continues — I wanted to show the various stages the company goes through in its final days.

Was it hard to get this financed? Film people tend to think no one else is interested in stories about film people.

Exactly! Thank you for saying that! That was exactly the problem we were facing. Fortunately, I was able to get the film financed because my first film had had some critical success. We would see people who were in the business, and they would think that everything else in the world is universal but that the film industry is different and that nobody would want to see this. Maybe the film industry is different on some level, but I feel that anything can be made interesting depending on how you film it.

Obviously, the world of film production is something you know intimately. But most of your audience won’t be familiar with it. You said you wanted to be precise and truthful. How did you strike that balance?

05272010_FatherofMyChildren2.jpgWhen I was writing the screenplay I didn’t even think about it. I was relying mostly on my own emotions, and as the script and the film developed, I felt these questions would resolve themselves. I wrote a first version of the script where the technical parts that deal with the company were just approximations. And then I did a lot of research, I talked to a lot of financiers and attorneys — I wanted to know what the dialogue would sound like, what the technical aspects of this situation would be. Not so much for the overall critique of it, but to make sure that I was getting that technical aspect of it correct.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.