Mia Hansen-Love may be the youngest of the wave of post-1980s female directors who have emerged from France, but she's also the most established. Hansen-Love, who turned 31 last month, can boast of awards and festival appearances aplenty. Her first film, All is Forgiven, won the best first film prize at the Cesar Awards. Father of My Children won the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes.
Completing her hat-trick of sorts is Goodbye First Love, which has been doing the festival rounds. While the film didn't reach the heights of her previous two outings - it failed to make the Cannes shortlist and only received a special mention at the Locarno Film Festival - it was a film she 'had to do ... to move on as a filmmaker and a person', she says.
'If I have a dark side in my own life, I have to put a camera there and look at it. I must not avoid it.' Speaking at the International Film Festival Rotterdam last month, she says Goodbye First Love is about self-destruction, a theme she has already broached in All is Forgiven and Father of My Children. But Goodbye First Love touches on something even closer to Hansen-Love: its self-imploding protagonist is very much based on the director's adolescence and early adulthood.
It begins in 1999, with the 15-year-old Camille (played by Lola Creton) becoming apprehensive as her boyfriend Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky) leaves for a trip to South America. When his letters dry up, the teenager tries to kill herself.
When Camille begins her studies to become an architect, she falls in love with her professor, Lorenz (Magne-Havard Brekke). Just as her emotional equilibrium seems restored, Sullivan reappears to upset her life again.
Hansen-Love says the film is as much about Camille's affair with Sullivan as it is about the young woman's gradual emergence as an independent architect under Lorenz's tutelage. It's a thread which mirrors her own development in filmmaking. She was in 'this awful love story which I don't know how to get out of' when she was given a role, at the age of 17, in Olivier Assayas' Late August, Early September in 1998.
Assayas would eventually become as much a mentor to Hansen-Love as Lorenz is to Camille. They became a couple after Assayas' divorce from actress Maggie Cheung Man-yuk.
Just like Assayas, Hansen-Love worked as a film critic for the intellectual French journal Cahiers du Cinema before becoming a director-screenwriter.
Her experience working on Assayas' films awakened a desire to make films rather than just writing about them. 'I have been very lucky to have this constant dialogue with Olivier,' says Hansen-Love, who is now married to the director.
'I haven't gone on any of his sets since Sentimental Destinies - that is a necessary border. But we talk a lot, and if there's one thing he really helped me, it's his method.
'Olivier usually does one project after another. He's very methodical. It's not like he would ever have five projects going on at once. He's very disciplined,' she says.
'Observing that, along with his efficiency, has helped me a lot. I know how to move forward.'
Goodbye First Love, Sat, 5pm, Grand Cinema; Apr 1, 9pm, City Hall. Part of the HK International Film Festival