'What's Your Job, Daddy?' ('Fils de'): Film Review

What's your job, Daddy? Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Capricci Films

What's your job, Daddy? Still - H 2014

Flashes of deadpan humor enliven this pseudo-documentary in which a porn star ponders nappy-changing responsibilities

Veteran porn actor-director HPG mixes genres in "autofiction" attempting to reconcile the conflicting demands of paternity and the X-rated industry.

Porn stars have a family life, too. And in case you ever doubted, here's Herve-Pierre Gustave, trading simply as HPG, to set you straight with What's Your Job, Daddy?(Fils de), which he directs, stars in and also co-produced. The pitch could hardly be simpler and is implicit in the title: What is a hardcore porn actor-director like HPG to tell his kids, once they reach the age of reason, about the way he earns his living? HPG confronts the issue head-on in a confection that is part video diary, part home movie, part documentary and part fiction. With its straddling of X-rated and nappy-changing territories, Daddy can forget about reaching mainstream audiences. If ever there was a film that required careful niche marketing, this is it.

The movie stands or falls entirely on how you relate to the central character. Fortunately, there's plenty to work with.

HPG plays a lightly fictionalized version of himself (the filmmakers describe the movie as an "autofiction.") At the ripe old age of 47, having spent 25 years stripping down for the camera, he now finds himself the father of two small children and wondering whether his present calling is really compatible with raising a family. His dilemma is sharpened by his wife, Gwen (Gwenaelle Baid, who like everyone else in the film plays a lightly fictionalized version of herself), who delivers an ultimatum: Either he quits the X-rated business, or she quits him. As he struggles to find an answer, we're invited to accompany him in his daily round of shooting sex scenes, romping with the kids, interrogating his producer (Thierry Lounas) and colleagues, consulting old friends — notably the 1960s rocker Christophe — and shooting more sex scenes.

Daddy is full of sly humor, and occasionally comedy of a lower kind, such as when HPG, depressed at having failed to become sufficiently tumescent for a scene, slumps back and upturns a goblet containing artificial sperm — no doubt concocted out of dairy products — over his head. Later, as HPG is shooting a scene in a Tyrolean fantasy, all painted mountains and lederhosen, Gwen bursts in on the principle that if you can't beat 'em join 'em, and what had been planned as a sex romp turns into a discussion of family affairs.

From the strutting directorial figure that he presents at the film's outset, HPG morphs gradually into something more pathetic and finally rather touching, with his Mussolini-like shaven head offset by the beginnings of a paunch and with his intimations of responsibility.

These flashes of self-deprecating humor and the occasional glimpses of the workings of the porn industry are the virtues that will recommend the film to the festival circuit and perhaps art house audiences. Production values are modest, appropriately given the subject matter. A number of scenes, if played straight, could conceivably attract an X-rating, but in reality there is nothing in Daddy to trouble the moral guardians of the West.

Production companies: Capricci Films, HPG Productions
Director: HPG (Herve-Pierre Gustave)
Cast: HPG, Gwenaelle Baid, Leni, Enora, 25cm, Thierry Lounas, Christophe, Karina Testa, Izla Higelin
Writer: HPG
Producers: Thierry Lounas, HPG
Director of Photography: Jonathan Ricquebourg
Editor: Leo Lochmann
Music: Christophe
International sales: Capricci Films

No rating, 70 minutes