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Asking Questions Louis C.K. Doesn’t Want to Answer

Unsubstantiated internet rumors of his sexual misconduct with female comics gained steam last month when the comic Tig Notaro told The Daily Beast that he should “handle” the rumors. “I Love You, Daddy” tackles similar rumormongering; however, like the auteur in the film, Louis C.K. at first dodged when asked about them.

Photo

Louis C.K in a scene from “I Love You, Daddy.” He plays a television writer whose teenage daughter is being seduced by a much older man.

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Courtesy TIFF

“I’m not going to answer to that stuff, because they’re rumors,” Louis C.K. said during the Toronto interview, as he told Vulture last year. But he added on Sunday, “If you actually participate in a rumor, you make it bigger and you make it real.”

So it’s not real? “No.” he responded. “They’re rumors, that’s all that is.”

And what did he make of the comments by Ms. Notaro, whose work he has championed? (Louis C.K. is an executive producer of her Amazon series, “One Mississippi,” though she has said they haven’t spoken in over a year; a new episode of her series features a plot with echoes of the rumors about Louis C.K.) “I don’t know why she said the things she’s said, I really don’t,” he replied, adding, “I don’t think talking about that stuff in the press and having conversations over press lanes is a good idea.”

As he spoke about “that stuff,” Louis C.K., who turns 50 on Tuesday, did not come off as defensive, but he did speak forcefully. He conceded that making a movie that toys with did-he-or-didn’t-he questions could strike some as a little flagrant.

“I made a movie that totally walks all over that electric fence,” he said, “and that’s weird.”

There’s the tricky, icky, central questions, like whether the relationship between the daughter (played by Chloë Grace Moretz) and the near-septuagenarian filmmaker (John Malkovich) is more acceptable given that she is just weeks shy of her 18th birthday. The film’s other provocations include a few slurs and a goof-off comedian (Charlie Day) miming onanism, twice, in front of other people.

“I don’t weigh these things and go, ‘I hope everybody’s O.K. with this,’” he said. “I think it’s boring to do that, and I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think that everybody has to come to a consensus that it’s O.K. for everybody.”

For prospective distributors in Toronto, the provocative elements seem to have added to the film’s allure. On Monday the distribution company The Orchard bought the film for $5 million, according to Louis C.K.’s publicist, Lewis Kay. (The comedian self-financed the movie, which was still in postproduction up until the premiere.) While he has made other work, including his surprise self-distributed series “Horace and Pete,” available for purchase on his website, Louis C.K. has said he wants to see “I Love You, Daddy” in theaters.

Shot in 35 millimeter in glamorous black and white, and accompanied by a sweeping score, the movie is deeply evocative of “Manhattan,” making it feel like a Woody Allen movie about Woody Allen. (Louis C.K. said other real-life figures, among them Roman Polanski, fed into the Allen-esque character, too.) He wrote “I Love You, Daddy” with Vernon Chatman, and began working on it two years ago, ending up with this story line out of the many he was considering. The tale folds in the agonizing that goes into parenting, a theme that has been a through line in the comedian’s work (in stand-up as well as in series like “Louie” on FX). He said he saw “I Love You, Daddy” as a tragic tale.

“It’s about a guy who found out too late that he didn’t do his job as a dad, and he couldn’t use the information that he found, and the girl had no choice but to raise herself,” he said. He added later that after seeing the film on the big screen, he felt that it was also “just kind of a sweet movie about the twilight of childhood and parenthood.”

Joining him to chat a little later, several of the film’s co-stars – Pamela Adlon, Mr. Day, Edie Falco and Ebonee Noel, whose teenage character claims at one point, “Everybody’s a pervert” – said it was Louis C.K.’s fearlessness that they relished most about his work.

“He’s never afraid to do something polarizing,” Ms. Adlon said, and Ms. Falco concurred. “I am so in awe of that bravery, ” Ms. Falco said, “Because it’s so not who I am.”

And that willingness to play it unsafe, Mr. Day said, was what set Louis C.K. apart.

“There’s always a little bit of blood in the water with what he makes,” he said. “And it’s hard to find that in Hollywood, because everyone wants to tread lightly. In a society that’s becoming ultimately far more saccharine, it’s harder to find anybody willing to fly close to the sun.”

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