Louis C.K. on Saturday debuted potentially the most audacious film of the Toronto International Film Festival: a very Woody Allen-esque comedy that simultaneously comments on Allen — and C.K.'s — controversies.
C.K. shot the film, "I Love You, Daddy," earlier this year in secret. He financed its production himself and shot it in black-and-white and on 35mm. Little was known about it before it premiered Saturday, so audiences were at turns delighted, surprised and uncertain about the brazen — but definitely quite funny — result.
The New York-set, lushly scored movie often takes after Allen's 1979 film "Manhattan," yet it also includes a character that the cast on Saturday acknowledged was modeled after Allen. John Malkovich plays a legendary film director who's rumored to have molested a young girl decades earlier. At the premiere, C.K. — who co-starred in Allen's "Blue Jasmine" — said he and co-writer Vernon Chatman wanted to make a movie about beloved artists who are trailed by murmurs of scandal.
"Vernon and I were talking about the fascination with people that there's these stories about and stuff — people that you love in their work," C.K. told the audience after the screening.
But "I Love You, Daddy" could also be seen a C.K.'s response to his own controversies. Allegations of questionable sexual behavior have long dogged C.K. Most recently, the comedian (and previous C.K. collaborator) Tig Notaro advised C.K. to "handle" the rumors.
In the film, C.K. plays a successful TV producer whose 17-year-old daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz) begins a relationship with Malkovich's aged director. It spawns a kind of crisis for C.K.'s character, who has his own issues with how he treats women.
The Guardian called it "a very funny and recklessly provocative homage to Woody Allen, channeling his masterpiece 'Manhattan' and brilliantly finding a fictional way to tackle his personal reputation head-on."
C.K. said he was able to pay for the film with profits from "Horace and Pete," the TV series he also self-funded and distributed on his own. How he'll release "I Love You, Daddy" isn't yet clear, though the comedian reminded those in attendance that it's for sale.
"I just didn't tell anybody we were making it. If you don't tell anybody, nobody cares what you're doing," C.K. said. "Once you ask for money, then it gets around. But I was just making it on my own dime. I always figure I part with the money. It's gone. So if it ever comes back, I'm OK with it."
Some were content to let C.K.'s motives remain mysterious.
"I don't know that we had a conversation about, necessarily, why he wanted to do it," Malkovich said. "But it's not the kind of thing I would ask."