E Nina Rothe
“This is not a portrait”: Lynne Sachs’ must watch ‘Film About a Father Who’ screens in NYC – E. Nina Rothe
Sigmund Freud once famously claimed “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” Yet so many of us, in dysfunctionally functional families around the world, have had fathers who better resembled Bluebeard than Ward Cleaver. We’ve had to, in fact, find protection in the arms of strangers or better yet, from our own courage.
As far as my own life, I remember dad during my early childhood and then it all becomes a bit fuzzy until his death in 2018. The two eras, more than forty years apart come with feelings as opposite as one can imagine. My childhood was idyllic, in many ways and yet by the time of his death, my dad had shut me out of his life and his inheritance — both emotional and monetary. It’s as if he’d wiped out all the happy thoughts of my early years.
What had happened in between, you might be asking right about now? Many wives, loads of strangers’ personal agendas and none of them included an only daughter who simply and honestly wanted an adult relationship with her immature dad.
So to me, Lynne Sachs’ ‘Film About a Father Who’ is simply a masterpiece. And quite clearly, Sachs is someone whose own issues with her father have turned her into a phenomenal woman — full of creativity and courage.
But a word of warning to all. Her film, although beautifully constructed and utterly pleasant to watch, brings up all sorts of emotions that will require additional viewings and many upcoming conversations with friends and family. Don’t expect to walk out of ‘Film About a Father Who’ with answers, because you’ll find yourself riddled with more questions. Sachs’ film premiered as the opening film at Slamdance and will play in NYC at the upcoming Museum of Modern Art’s Doc Fortnight on February 11th and 14th.
In certain spots, Sachs’ film reminded me of something I watched last winter, in Rotterdam — Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Le livre d’image’ in that while it tells the story of an imperfectly perfect father in a linear way, and here comes the Godard part — it uses techniques more often used in visual art and literature than in cinema. Sachs followed her dad around, and lots of other family members including her famous director brother Ira Jr., with a camera for several years, allowing the audience to grow with their characters and feel like we too spent time around that coffee table, seated on their couch. That’s the quality I most enjoyed in a film that truly sits in my heart, weeks after first viewing it.
To say that Ira Sachs Sr. is an interesting character would be an understatement. He is the perfect leading man for a cinematic oeuvre like ‘Film About a Father Who’. Sachs is vibrantly interesting, unaggressive and has kind eyes yet ones that hide a lot of conflicting emotions. He’s also a real estate developer — he helped turn Park City, Utah into a tourist destination — a philanthropist, a womanizer and an environmentalist. And, as he’s set up in the opening shots of the film when Lynne first introduces him to her audience while she combs the knots out of his long silver mane, a true-born-badass hippie.