The Martha’s Vineyard Film Society will bring the award-winning French film, “Father of My Children,” to the Katharine Cornell Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 6. This tale of a film producer and his family life won its director, Mia Hanson-Love, the “Un Certain Regard” jury prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
It’s easy to see that the film’s main character, movie producer Grégoire Canvel (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) champions the kinds of independent films that don’t find financing easily. He believes in the temperamental Swedish film director who’s already gone $4 million over budget and is steadily draining the coffers of Moon Films, Grégoire’s company. Grégoire’s other film projects are not doing well financially either, but he will not compromise by selling his film catalog.
As he heads off in his car for a weekend with his wife and three children, he juggles two cell phones — talking on one to his production assistant, and on the other to his wife Sylvie (Chiari Caselli) and his surly teenaged daughter Clémence (Alice de Lencquesaing, daughter of Louis-Do).
Life proceeds mundanely on these two planes. Forgetting that he gave them to her, he compliments Clémence on her earrings. Grégoire listens to a story about the family cat and counsels Clémence to decide to be happy. The cops arrest him temporarily for speeding and not wearing a seatbelt.
As clouds darken over his finances, Gregoire seems to maintain an optimistic outlook, enjoying a visit to a Romanesque church and a swim with Sylvie and two of his three daughters. Business intrudes, though, and Sylvie is not pleased when he ducks off to make a phone call.
Like many high-powered executives, Grégoire is a man walking a tightrope between the demands of work and family, and he is equally committed to both. “Father of My Children” does not show the viewer the glamorous side of the movie industry, which as anyone who knows the business appreciates, can be grueling and filled with disappointments.
“Father of My Children” is said to be based on the life of a real-life French producer Humbert Balsan, who worked as a minor actor in Robert Bresson’s 1974 Arthurian romance, “Lancelot of the Lake,” and in other films and then helped produce some 70 movies. These included James Ivory’s “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge,” and Lars von Trier’s “Manderlay.” Chairman of the European Film Academy, he was an advocate of women directors like Claire Denis and Sabine Frenel, as well as Ms. Hansen-Love.
Knowledge of the back-story may help the viewer understand why “Father of My Children” emphasizes Grégoire’s wife and daughters and shifts its point of view to Clémence and her father’s first wife during the second half of the film.
The pleasures of the film do not lie in hair-raising adventures or breathtaking vistas and cinematic sleights of hand. Rather, they come through director Hanson-Love’s artful development of character and texture. The message is clear: How an individual chooses to deal with failure affects everyone around him.
“Father of My Children,” Saturday, Nov. 6, 7:30 pm, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. $8; $5 for M.V. Film Society members. Doors open at 7 pm. For more information, visit mvfilmsociety.com.
Freelance writer Brooks Robards divides her time between Oak Bluffs and Northampton.