Man Who Loved Women, The (1977)

“For me, nothing is more beautiful to see than a woman walking.”

Synopsis:
A scientist (Charles Denner) obsessed with beautiful women reflects back on the many partners he’s pursued over the years, as he writes his thoughts in a manuscript he hopes to publish.

Genres:

Review:
Francois Truffaut once insisted that “there is more truth in the bedroom than in the office or the board room” — which might explain his interest in making a film about a man literally obsessed with pursuing beautiful women, and making love to them at any cost. After a highly unrealistic opening scene (in which scores of women — mostly former lovers, along with a few friends — file by to pay their respects to the deceased Denner), the film’s first “scene of pursuit” shows Denner glimpsing a pair of enormously attractive female legs walking by in heels and a swishy skirt, then scrambling to jot down her license plate number as she drives away, and pursuing this phantom female (he never sees her face) with what amounts to foolhardy single-mindedness — only to learn that she lives in Canada, has a fiance, and won’t be back to France for another two years. This scene in many ways epitomizes the ludicrous and elusive nature of Denner’s ongoing sexual quests, which resemble more than anything those of Michael Fassbinder’s sorry sex addict in Steve McQueen’s Shame (2011).

Unlike McQueen, however, Truffaut keeps the tone of his film relatively lighthearted throughout; Denner’s obsession with accumulating female partners (most of whom are young, attractive, and unrealistically willing to jump straight into bed with him) rules his life, but his doctor — after telling him he’s contracted gonorrhea — simply chuckles at his lusty spirit, and Denner’s pursuits continue. Most of the screenplay is dedicated to showing us the string of varied women Denner beds, as well as his attempt to get his “scandalous” memoirs published; along the way, Truffaut intersperses occasional flashbacks to Denner’s youth, showing how his neglectful mother (Marie-Jeanne Montfajon) may have played a part in his lifelong neurosis. While there’s nothing particularly offensive about any of this — one can’t help staying engaged in what’s happening on screen, given Truffaut’s intrinsic storytelling talents — the film as a whole isn’t one of Truffaut’s best, and ultimately isn’t must-see viewing for all film fanatics.

Note: Leslie Caron shows up in a brief scene as — you guessed it — one of Denner’s former lovers, but her role is so small as to be considered a cameo.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Nestor Almendros’ cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s certainly worth a look by fans of Truffaut’s work.

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One Response to “Man Who Loved Women, The (1977)”

  1. Not a must – and one of Truffaut’s dullest films.

    First viewing.

    What is there to care about in this tedious, drawn-out breakdown of a man who simply covets female flesh? He’s empty and so is the film.

    Even some of the potentially insightful things that certain characters say to him –

    “…you just love the idea of love.”

    “I see your problem. You hate women.”

    “You often look preoccupied. Sometimes you even look like a killer.”

    – are ultimately of no value since the main character refuses to pause for serious, fruitful self-exploration. Yes, he does write a book about his life, supposedly with the aim of self-discovery. But it ends up in much the way masturbation does.

    When Truffaut realizes he has no way of illuminating the character or concluding the film, he resorts to tragedy.

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