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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.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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