Today we talk about seduction the French way by watching The Man Who Loved Women, one of the last 1977 movies by one of the greatest directors of the world’s most romantic country, François Truffaut.
Set in the picturesque French province, we come upon the life (or rather death, since it all begins with his funeral) of Bertrand Morane, a civil engineer with a peculiar obsession with women.
His passion for the fair sex knows no bounds, embracing a range of different female types he conquers despite not having a beautiful face or body but understanding their weaknesses with great charm and cunning.
Morane leads a life filled with short but intense relationships, in a constant hunt for the perfect prey that tends toward a world of boundless romance, although his love for women is always short-term.
In a constant wandering through cafes, parks, and busy streets, our protagonist tirelessly searches for the ideal female companion, and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of faces, each telling a unique story of affection, seduction, and, at times, disappointment and regret.
The turning point comes when Morane decides to write a book about his many love affairs, trying to capture the essence of each woman who crosses his path.
He thus meets the beautiful and intelligent editor Geneviève Bigey, who proves to be the only woman who can, if not approve, at least understand his bizarre life choice.
She will be the one to preside over his funeral, amusedly admiring the parade of all the lovers of this modern Casanova whose heart and soul he was able to touch.
His love may not have always been fair and kind, but he will still succeed in remaining in their memories forever, despite being far from what women imagine as the ideal man.
A unique mind for avant-garde cinema
Through the sharp lens of a masterful direction, it unfolds a hymn to femininity, interweaving irony and melancholy.
This portrait of the gentle sex stands out for its respectful and delicate approach, avoiding glorifying the main character’s womanizer behavior, preferring to highlight the diversity and beauty of the women portrayed.
However, female beauty is celebrated in every aspect, without, for example, neglecting Mr. Morane’s fixation on women’s legs, symbols for him of the compasses that measure our world.
The brilliance of the script, co-written with Suzanne Schiffman and Michel Fermaud, lies in the unique structure unfolding in a series of sometimes unrelated memories, almost as if it were a collection of episodes.
Nonetheless, the plot is straightforward for any viewer to follow, and the appeal of this movie does not require huge cinematic knowledge to appreciate the celebration of the joy of life and that void of sadness impossible to reify of the female universe and love in all its facets.
Dating back to 1977, this movie is one of the most appreciated works of the acclaimed director, who that same year we find as an actor serving fellow genius Steven Spielberg in the extraordinary sci-fi cult hit Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
We regret that a talent of this magnitude passed away prematurely in the mid-1980s. If new generations had the opportunity to know him better, they would surely have appreciated his artistic genius and invaluable contribution to the art of cinema.
Indeed, his style is so distinctive that it never went out of fashion; instead, he marked fashion and paved the way for a different kind of cinema with all his colleagues in the French New Wave.
The many faces of love
Besides Truffaut’s direction, the talent of Charles Denner also stands out, finding fruitful ground in the character of Bertrand Morane.
A man about whom we follow not just one but dozens of stories, many little tales of love, each with a charm all its own.
The burning desire in Morane’s heart elevates him to the rank of an exceptional lover, capable of igniting passion in every woman who crosses his path.
However, his insatiable desire condemns him to perpetual dissatisfaction, as the attraction toward the conquest of a new lover is always too powerful.
At its core, Morane embodies fleeting love, which, like a flame, can burn vividly and intensely only to extinguish just as quickly.
Regarding the women in this movie, of course, of all of them, Brigitte Fossey distinguishes for her enchanting performance as Geneviève Bigey, the editor of the book about Morane’s romantic conquests.
In a peculiar role, she transforms from a spectator into a kind of amused biographer of the sweet-tempered and mild-mannered protagonist, even as she does not hesitate to critically inspect Morane’s early love life.
We cannot fail to mention Nelly Borgeaud, who lends her face to Delphine Grezel, one of Morane’s few lovers with whom he shares a more lasting relationship.
However, as is always the case in the protagonist’s life, the potential for a future together is stifled by the constant search for the next conquest, which falls to the younger and more attractive Leslie Caron, as Véra, perhaps the only real breakthrough in Morane’s love life.
Indeed, she is the only woman for whom the protagonist has genuinely suffered, unable to understand the reasons for their separation, which for once, is not dictated by his usual flight to new women to seduce.