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PARIS — Traditionally, the directors of French cinema have been as macho as they come. But not anymore.
Anne Fontaine, whose fifth movie, “How I Killed My Father,” will be released in the U.S. next week, is among a new generation of female directors to join the industry over the past decade.
Her latest film, released in France last year, takes place in a bourgeois Versailles neighborhood, where Jean-Luc, played by Charles Berling, works as a gerontologist specializing in expensive antiaging treatments for an extremely wealthy clientele. When his long-lost father, played by 75-year-old César winning actor Michel Bouquet, enters his life again and judges his son’s medicine as frivolous, Jean-Luc’s polished life crumbles.
“I wanted to make a movie about the Oedipal complex, but not in a psychoanalytical way,” says Fontaine. “I wanted to do a thriller and an Oedipal movie.” Even though, like the character in her film, Fontaine’s own father was somewhat marginal during her childhood, their relationship didn’t form the basis for the film. It was Fontaine’s own entry into parenthood.
“Having a child in my life amazed me,” she says. “It has such an influence on the way you interpret the past. You hear yourself say things you thought you had forgotten, and the status of a mother or father is so strange.”
Before stepping behind the camera, Fontaine worked as an actress, a job she didn’t enjoy. “I found that I had to abandon myself to someone else’s desires. I didn’t choose. I depended on the director’s telephone call. It was quite unbearable,” she says.
Now, as a director, Fontaine’s contact with her actors is quite intimate. “The director plays the role from inside the actor,” she says. “There is a fusion between the character, the camera and you.”
Though she is part of a new French tradition in cinema, Fontaine won’t be able to participate in the great French tradition of the August vacation. She will start shooting her next film, starring Fanny Ardant, Gérard Depardieu and Emanuelle Béart, in the early fall.