» » Comment j'ai tué mon père (2001)

Short summary

Jean-Luc is an established gerontologist who can do no wrong; he runs a private clinic specialising in anti-ageing treatments. Honoured for his work in this field, he throws a garden party at his home. It is during this social event that his father suddenly reappears, back after a long exile. A physician, he had left decades earlier without any apparent reason to practice in Africa. He moves into his son's home for several days, phlegmatically observing everything with an enigmatic smile. He peruses Jean-Luc's life and environment with cruel objectivity. The arrival of this interloper father, who everyone thought had disappeared for good, shatters the family microcosm: Jean-Luc doesn't know how to take him, as if the memory - or the resentment - was nothing but lost time; his wife becomes fond of this highly unconventional man; after first refusing to deal with him, Jean-Luc's younger brother strikes up a modest bond with him.

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Kiaile
    This superb French film is at times so closed and contained, in spite of several outdoor scenes, that at times it comes close to being claustrophobic. This isn't a criticism;the same could be said of some of Bergman's great films. But, likes some of Bergman's films, its intensity can be overwhelming. I won't reveal much of the plot, but suffice it to say that it seems to be saying that, no matter what our achievements, for many if not most people, life is largely a matter of surviving, that is, surviving the damage inflicted in the early years, and minimizing the amount if damage we inflict on others. A masterful and painful film. 9/10
  • comment
    • Author: JoJogar
    The pace, the images, the characters in this film are deliciously meditative...and although universal in its content, very French in its presentation. Not a film for Americans who want an action-packed, easily accessible narrative. But those who enjoy an intelligent exploration of relationships at a deep even profound level will find this movie to their liking.

    The basic line sets up the life of a very successful gerontologist, dealing in anti-aging methods, married to a beautiful, compliant young woman and also involved sexually with his attractive assistant. When he receives a letter telling him his father, who has been a doctor in Africa and deserted his family many years ago, has died, we are given a revery from his imagination. In this reflection, his father appears at his elegant home and the rest of the film explores the son's complex relationship and emotions relative to what he believes these might be, should his father actually show up. A very interesting devise...using classic projection and giving us the challenging question "What is real and what is imagined".

    The cast is superb...with special kudos to Michael Bouquet and Charles Berling, the leads.

    I recently saw "Life As A House"...and while the performances were fine...the movie itself...dealing again with a father-son relationship...was such a mish-mash of extraneous characters, the real focus and profundity were lost in the Hollywood glitter of it all. This Anne Fontaine film keeps the color so wonderfully subdued, almost a sense of black and white, that the visual aspect is moodily effective and appropriate to its theme.
  • comment
    • Author: Wrathshaper
    "My Father and I", as the DVD was entitled, spends its time examining the emotional erosion of an icy, controlling, stilted, and successful Gerontologist upon the return of the father who abandoned him as a child. A well presented psychodrama with a solid cast, good production value, and a meager storyline, this film tells its tale of gathering rage cloaked in polite conversation through nuances of body language, behavior, and minimal dialogue. Subtitled and ambiguous in beginning and end, "My Father and I" was well received by both critics and public the public at large given allowances for subtitles. Recommended for French film fans into psychodramas. (B+)
  • comment
    • Author: Arcanefist
    Many French films over the decades have begun with a voice, with or without images, one of the characters, usually the protagonist, speaking directly to the audience. "Comment j'ai tué mon père" begins with a male voice speaking, over blank-screen credits, about the trials of late middle age. Since our only other info has been the film's first-person title, when the bearded speaker materializes we assume he's our protagonist. He's just young enough to have a living parent, maybe one about to die. When the camera pulls back to reveal the gerontologist listening, we see this secondary figure as a prop, a movie cliché. But a cut disillusions. The speaker will never reappear. It's the gerontologist's story.

    Director Anne Fontaine's slight of hand continues throughout the film, so pervasively that it's difficult to go on here with giving away too much. It's far from only the gerontologist's story. At least three characters, not counting the opening speaker above, carry the point of view. Yet it's not "Rashomon." Perhaps appropriate in a film about aging, with a gerontologist dead center, the time line seldom wavers.
  • comment
    • Author: Kata
    How I Killed My Father (aka My Father and I) is a story about parental abandonment and filial rage, told in a very calm way. The characters hardly ever break a sweat as they deal with irresponsible fathers, feckless siblings, childlessness and the other griefs of life. The locale is, after all, Versailles, and the emotional temperature never gets above zero in those manicured gardens.

    Jean-Luc invents a family for himself to replace the one he lost at the age of ten. He becomes a father substitute for his brother Patrick--imagine having your brother as chauffeur and gofer. He presides over this clinic for rich middle-aged people trying to regain their youth, much like a father and his children. If his wife is tiring of being an ornament, he can handle her moods: after all, he's got her believing she can't have kids. The mistress at the clinic can be kept happy by the promise of an apartment. The only thing he can't allow is to be abandoned by any of them.

    The conflict with his father is the occasion for many droll exchanges between Charles Berling and Michel Bouquet. Jacques Fieschi, the co-author of this script, also wrote Un coeur en hiver, Nelly & Monsieur Arnaud and Sade, some of my favorite studies of bleak hearts in comfortable surroundings.
  • comment
    • Author: Survivors
    The last opus of Anne Fontaine is a combination of two influences: Oedipus complex and Nettoyage A Sec (Fontaine's previous film).

    What it takes from the Oedipus story is of course the conflictual relationship between Charles Berling (the son) and Michel Bouquet (the father), and how Berling tries to 'kill' his father to affirm his own identity. From Nettoyage A Sec, the film takes his structure: how a seemingly ideal couple (Berling and Regnier) copes with the unexpected intrusion of the father.

    If it were just for the acting, How I killed my Father would deserve a 10. Bouquet and Berling share an astounding intimacy on screen which interestingly happened off the set as well (they wrote a book of thoughts together just after the shoot). Regnier is surprisingly convincing in the beautiful up-class wife; what a versatility after her role in the Dreamlife of Angels when she was a young insecure squatter. However there is no special twist in the storyline, like one which made Nettoyage A Sec so disturbing...

    To sum up, a good acting piece which failed to deliver in the drama.
  • comment
    • Author: Nnulam
    This is a film whose title i find highly significant. It creates a tension throughout all the action which i find highly integral to the significance of the piece.

    The casting, however, i found cliché. The 'rich yet forlorn' wife of Jean-Luc is predictably docile looking. Beautiful she is, yes, and aristocratic in movement, also, but she is exactly what one expects. Equally, Jean-Luc's lover, who is more Mediterranean looking, with more spirit and with a more voluptuous body, is also the archetypal affair. Why, in 2001 are we still type-casting? However, I find Jean-Luc immaculately chosen, with the touch of 'froideur' in his eyes that hints at a depth in the character, and also, an 'un-depth' for it is very difficult to penetrate his often emotionless actions.

    Not a film that i would say was beautifully shot...i don't find the photography breathtaking, but it is a perfect french thriller: classy, subtle and psychologically deep.
  • comment
    • Author: Visonima
    I was very interested to see the previous film of director Anne Fontaine before she did the excellent 'Nathalie'. 'Comment j'au tue mon pere' did not disappoint, although it may not be a easy film for everybody's taste.

    Despite the title this is no detective story, and there is almost no physical violence in this movie. It is the world of the French middle-high class, people are polite and talk quiet. A well-doing doctor lives with his wife and his brother when their lives are changed by the arrival - as in a inverse parable - of the prodigal father, the one who left the boys as kids. Not only that the characters cannot re-do the time lost, but they do not seem to even look or express any affection. The emotions behind their cold masks are however not less stronger, with frustration and fear dominating the father-sons interaction.

    The movie is very well acted with Michel Bouquet and Charles Berling giving powerful performances in the principal roles. Although the cinematography is a little banal, the movie is to be remembered for the intensity of the hidden conflicts, well brought to the screen.
  • comment
    • Author: Geny
    In 1997, Anne Fontaine made an idiosyncratic film named "Nettoyage à Sec" in which a mysterious young man, Loïc shattered the upstart world of a couple of dry cleaners. Miou-Miou acted the woman while Charles Berling was her husband. Four years later, the female filmmaker finds again her main actor for a very similar role and a film which resembles its 1997 companion.

    Here, the disruptive element isn't a young man but an elderly one acted by Michel Bouquet in a mind-boggling performance. After many years spent in research in Africa, he unexpectedly resurfaces in France to pay a visit to his sons. Berling is a doctor who has everything to be happy: a private hospital that works well, a lascivious mansion and a lovely spouse (Natacha Régnier) and he even saved from distress his brother whom he hired as his chauffeur. Is this posh universe serendipitous? Bouquet's presence will reveal the other side of this lush scenery as well as many things about his past, Berling's and his brother's. A good proportion of these secrets have something eerie and are likely to explain the current situation.

    As soon as Bouquet arrives, Anne Fontaine exudes an unnerving climate and keeps a low-key tonality to better capture a high disquiet. Rather than to deliver banal explanations that would have rushed the film towards miscarriage, she prefers to call upon the viewer's imagination and to let the unsaid prevail to interpret the numerous zones of shadow and ambiguity the characters have deep down inside them. What also cements her talent is that she eschews a good number of easy moments in which the characters' reactions would have been so predictable. Distance is her key word to shoot her characters and she sends away the father and his son without pronouncing in favor of either even if she has an ounce of sympathy at the tail end when they feel lost.

    Once again, Michel Bouquet's acute look and ubiquity are to be praised. He just has to pronounce a cue with his hoarse voice to fill one sequence with intensity. Berling and Régnier are up to scratch him. With Marion Vernoux and a few other ones, Anne Fontaine may be the finest French female filmmaker of these last years. Perhaps one will just regret this detail: Bouquet sees his son again when the latter is at the peak of his success and invites the whole community at his home. This trick has been used many times before.
  • comment
    • Author: Lilegha
    'Comment J'ai Tu Mon Pere' is the story of an apparently untroubled man whose control over his own life is threatened by the return of his difficult long-lost father. It's also one of those typically French films where everyone is beautiful and the drama proceeds by the subtlest of inflexion. And I find myself more willing to tolerate the first fault than I would be in an American film, partly because the characters are truly beautiful (in Hollyowood films they are often just healthy), and partly because of the second virtue. That is to say, the acting, script, cinematography and music are all superb, they bring a pained (and changing) life to this story where (superficially) nothing happens. It's true that you probably won't like this film if you do like the latest blockbuster; but the loss will all yours.
  • comment
    • Author: Jieylau
    This is a film which, for me, picked itself right up through its very clever final scene which could easily have been quite, for want of a better word, cliché. 'I woke up and it was all a dream' is in no way an appropriate way to talk of the ending and/or plot of 'comment j'ai tué mon père'. The lead up to the revelation of the genuine nature of the letter received by Jean-Luc explaining his father's death is played immensely well, and the development of the plot throughout the film in the lead up to Maurice's 'imaginary' death gives nothing away.

    The result of this 'dream like' or imaginary plot that makes up almost the entirety of the film results in us having not one, but two major climaxes in the film; the first being the strangling of Maurice by his son, and the second being the revelation that Maurice was indeed dead as was said at the beginning of the film. These two climaxes occur so close together that maximum impact is definitely achieved. The dramatic strangling of Maurice is then superseded by the realisation that the events of the film have in fact been a figure of Jean-Luc's imagination; an untold story that flashes through his mind in a split second.

    The film is brimming with emotion, and is clearly seen on the faces of every character; the short 'diary room'-style, very personal 'interviews' with Patrick give us even further insight into the impact of Maurice's arrival upon the lives of his sons, and give the film a much greater dimension. I do think that the depth of emotion in the film can sometimes slow the film down, however this does heighten the impact of the 'second climax'. I feel that by slowing the film down, the final revelation proves even more shocking as with the relatively slow plot, we have become maybe too comfortable with where we think the film is going.

    'Comment j'ai tué mon père' is a great film, which manages very well to surprise without falling into the 'cliché' trap. It could sometimes feel slow, however this was more than made up for by its very clever twist, both written and acted superbly.
  • comment
    • Author: Jonide
    can film get better? can emotions move more? has there ever been a better original soundtrack? and last but not least, how often does one get to enjoy actors like this, in combination with such a brilliant camera work and a direction that is so to the point?

    not often... in my case, I don't think any film was all this to me before.

    this is a film that might divide your time in a before and an after having seen it.
  • comment
    • Author: Vonalij
    The French movie "Comment j'ai tué mon pèrr (2001)" was shown in the U.S. with the title, "How I Killed My Father", but is also known as "My Father and I." The film was co-written and directed by Anne Fontaine.

    The movie stars Charles Berling, who portrays Jean-Luc, a successful gerontologist. (Successful in financial terms. He runs a boutique medical clinic for older people who can afford his fees, and who wish to retain their youthfulness.) He is very wealthy.

    Jean-Luc has it all--a beautiful wife (Natacha Régnier), a beautiful mistress (Amira Casar), and the time and money to utilize the services of a prostitute when he chooses. He's not completely happy, because it's hard to juggle his time at the clinic and in all those bedrooms. Still, he's contented and satisfied in his own cold, aloof, way.

    The plot begins with the arrival of his father, Maurice, played by the brilliant French actor Michel Bouquet. Maurice is also a physician. He has spent many years in Africa, which sounds noble. However, he simply walked out on his family when Jean- Luc and his brother were young. We gather from context that, even before he left, he didn't spend much time with his family. Maurice apparently did well enough in Africa until the government changed, when he was briefly imprisoned and then expelled from the country. Now he is in Versailles, observing and waiting.

    Although there are many sub-plots, they all revolve around Jean-Luc. As the movie progresses, you begin to see that he's not only cold and aloof, but also manipulative and selfish. Maurice is no saint, but he's a better person than his son.

    This isn't a film that you must find and see, but it definitely has some strengths, especially the acting by Berling and Bouquet. We saw it on an old VHS tape, and it worked well on the small screen.
  • comment
    • Author: Deeroman
    A psychological drama about a father who disappears and dies years later. His son a successful doctor imagines what it would be like if his father had returned in a reverie.

    This movie explores the pain caused by absent parents and the scars they leave.

    Beautifully filmed but I found the actor playing the doctor son (the father is also a doctor) and his brother were distorted looking (on purpose?). They look like vampires or 50s space aliens.

    The film is interrupted by boring not funny monologues by the brother who apparently works as a stand up comedian (in the reverie only I imagine) delivering monologues about the father--this is a plot device that falls flat and ruins rather than helps things. It seems gimmicky.

    The film is OK... will not affect you deeply like it is supposed to though. Some how it just doesn't quite work? The comedian part is gimmicky and backfires.
  • comment
    • Author: Gavirgas
    Despite of the great reviews this film got locally and in France, this picture will test the viewer's patience in absorbing the whole story and its details. It is a story that one can only view with a detached attitude since most of it seems to be far fetched, to say the least.

    Why would the Charles Berling character, married to the beautiful, if a bit of an ice queen, Natalie Regnier, fool around when he has the real thing at home? He stands to lose it all if he tells the wife he's more satisfied with his exotic assistant. Not only that, but he needs a prostitute like he needs a hole in his head!

    Did Michel Bouquet, the father of the story, beget this children, or are they adopted? No father deserves the double whammy of producing an idiotic doctor and an aspiring comedian, whose humor is so stupid that he'd better have a day time job in the local boulangerie.
  • comment
    • Author: Topmen
    5 of 10

    Despite good acting, the story lacks depth and direction. The middle seems like little more than styrofoam for a clever beginning and ending concept. Lots of stuff simply does not fit.
  • Cast overview, first billed only:
    Michel Bouquet Michel Bouquet - Maurice
    Charles Berling Charles Berling - Jean-Luc
    Natacha Régnier Natacha Régnier - Isa
    Amira Casar Amira Casar - Myriem
    Stéphane Guillon Stéphane Guillon - Patrick
    Hubert Koundé Hubert Koundé - Jean-Toussaint
    Karole Rocher Karole Rocher - Laetitia
    Marie Micla Marie Micla - The Prostitute
    Nicole Evans Nicole Evans - The Female Patient
    Philippe Lehembre Philippe Lehembre - Homeless Guy / Elderly Patient
    Pierre Londiche Pierre Londiche - Isa's Father
    Jean-Christophe Lemberton Jean-Christophe Lemberton - Cyril
    Manoëlle Gaillard Manoëlle Gaillard - Isa's Mother
    Etienne Louvet Etienne Louvet - Myriem's Son
    Claude Koener Claude Koener - The Official
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