The Man Who Loved Women (1977 and 1983 versions) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's thought in white:

My theory is that not many movies should be remade. Not too long ago somebody was planning to remake Casablanca with Sean Penn as Rick. Could there be a good reason to remake Casablanca? I like Sean Penn, and I'm sure they could make great technical improvements with the technology of the past 60 years, but why do it? Surely you'd lose the inner spirit that made Casablanca what it was, and you could never replace the great character actors of the old Warner years.

On the other hand, you probably don't want to remake Plan 9 From Outer Space. There's no way to make it really good, and if you made it slightly good, you would destroy what value it has now.

So if great movies and awful movies are out, what should be remade? It seems to me that the only time remakes work is when the original movie was a pretty good film with a great idea that could have been handled a lot better - case in point being The Thomas Crown Affair.

The Man Who Loved Women, is a 1983 remake of a film from just six years earlier, and the earlier film was by Truffaut! The only flaw in the earlier version is that it wasn't in English with American stars, so it had no innate box office appeal in North America. I guess Blake Edwards' remake of Truffaut's film was inspired by the same instinct that caused Cameron Crowe to remake Open Your Eyes as Vanilla Sky. He loved the original, and thought more people should have easy access to it.


English version: Marilu Henner showed her breasts and a fair portion of her buns in an apres-sex scene with Burt Reynolds

French version: We see breasts from Valerie Bonnier in a distant shot, out of focus as she dresses, and great breast exposure from Sabine Glasser.

Although it isn't a totally awful film, it didn't really work.

The thing that makes Truffaut unique is his management of the bittersweet, his use of high and low comedy of all types as a technique to make melancholy situations even sadder. Blake Edwards just doesn't have the same gift, but he tried very hard. On the one hand, the film is a serious character study which is narrated by an ex-lover attending a sculptor's funeral. Hundreds of other women are there as well, and the narrator (also the sculptor's a psychologist) tells us of the man's need to love all women, to worship them, and his unwillingness to break off with any of them or commit to any of them. He can't bring himself to reject a woman because to do so would be to hurt her and assure that he would never see her again. On the other hand, he can't commit to just one, because that would cut him off from the future delight of meeting so many more. So he just falls in love with new women, day after day, genuinely loves them, and they him. He's not a hedonistic bon vivant or a narcissistic casual seducer, but a gentle-spirited puppy who loves all his women and respects them as if they were his own mother.

And thus we come to something that the remake badly mismanaged. He treated all women, especially prostitutes, as if they were his mother because in his subconscious mind, they were his own mother, who was a floozy and a prostitute. The film should have used that fact as a final revelation which explained everything to us. We should have been asking - why does this very nice, very troubled man need to go through women like this? And a final unveiling of his childhood would have satisfied our curiosity. Instead, the secret is blown away in the first few minutes, and the rest of the film is pointless rambling back to the point where we already know it to end. (His funeral)

Another innate flaw of the remake was the inconsistency of the tone. The film was moving along as a stylish comedy until the sculptor had to attend an unveiling in Houston, and was seduced by the wife of his benefactor (Kim Basinger). The Basinger character is a woman who is excited by danger and the thrill of public sex, and the film descends into low comedy in her attempts to have sex with the sculptor in various public places, or in sight of her husband. There is about a 15 minute stretch when the film becomes a naughty Three Stooges comedy, complete with a total buffoon husband (Hey, sweetpea, let's drink a couple bottles of that thar Don Pay-rig-non and watch some rasslin'), and Burt Reynolds supergluing himself to a dog and a rug. Then it returns to the melancholy, bittersweet tone it had earlier. Neither part of the film was without value, but the shift just didn't seem to work. Truffaut himself does things like this, inserting Keystone Kops sequences into bleak situations, but he's Truffaut. He's about the only man in history who can pull it off.

DVD info from Amazon.

(American version)

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1, and a full screen version

  • no meaningful features

DVD info from Amazon.

(French version)

The psychologist provides another clumsy device in the film. Of course, since she's a woman, we know that her patient will fall in love with her as he does with all women, but she eventually reciprocates, and this affair didn't work at all. They didn't even seem to like each other. The two of them must have the least screen chemistry of any pair in history (Julie Andrews and Burt Reynolds). In fact, Andrews sleepwalks through the entire film, her complete lack of energy satisfactory for the patient-analyst scenes and the narrative, but deadening to the romantic scenes. The filmmakers should simply have had her brush off his advances professionally, and thus saved Julie a lot of embarrassment.

There are some moments in the film that I liked. As the camera pans around to reveal the women at his funeral, the assortment of faces tells us silently what the film thought it needed to repeat again and again with endless narrative. The women in the crowd weren't all beauties. Some were fat, some ugly, some old. This simple pan showed us that he cherished all women, and truly loved them, and wasn't just a stud-boy after the hot chicks. Unfortunately, those moments of subtlety and nuance occupied too little running time, and the over-explanatory narration far too much.

Tuna's Thoughts on both versions

The Man Who Loved Women (1977), or  L'Homme qui aimait les femmes is essentially the memoirs of Don Juan (usually an adult film), but with nearly all of the nudity and sex removed, leaving a hell of a challenge for someone to make a good film out of what is left.   François Truffaut was able to do just that. Not only did he direct, but he share writing credits, and even made a cameo appearance in the film. Charles Denner is a quiet engineer by day, but a modern day Don Juan after 6. He cares about women deeply, understands them, and makes them feel wanted. He is content with this, and has no interest in a deeper relationship. It is not just the sex that motivates him, and it has nothing to do with ego, he just genuinely enjoys many women, especially ones with nice legs. He will go to any lengths to meet someone who attracts him. In one case, armed with a memory of a pair of legs, and the license number of the car the legs belonged to, he tracks down the woman, only to find that it was her cousin he saw. He thanks her and leaves. Obviously, she is not his type.

At one point, a woman his age turns him down. Seems she only sleeps with men under thirty, to compensate for her self-image problems of being much older than that. This starts him thinking, and he decides to write a book. Most of the story switches between the present, and recollections as he writes the book about his experiences. Hence, the book is a plot device, both to provide exposition, and to neatly separate the two time frames. There is a delicious irony in the ending, where he dies, which is why the film begins at his funeral, attended only by women -- lots of them. The film works, and works well, because Truffaut was able to make the story move, and turn Denner into a character that the audience is sympathetic to. We see breasts from Valerie Bonnier in a distant shot, out of focus as she dresses, and great breast exposure from an actress I have been unable to identify.

Even though this is a sub-titled character driven drama, I think many people will like it, and give a B-.

The Man Who Loved Women (1983) is a remake of the Truffaut film, but as a comedy, and set in the US. First of all, they followed the biggest weakness of the original, and only managed to get one of the beautiful women in the cast out of her clothes. (Marilu Henner shows all three Bs in bed with Burt Reynolds, which brings me to a second huge mistake. Burt Reynolds has one character, Burt Reynolds, and plays the same character in every film. Some stories can use a Burt Reynolds, like The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Semi-Tough, and The Longest Yard. He is a little boy in a man's body, grinning and cavorting on screen. This film did not have a part for Burt Reynolds, so they had to start changing the story. His character changed from an intelligent engineer who charms women with his personality and honest appreciation of them, to a little kid playing at being a sculptor, whose charm is primarily physical. The new character would be neither bright nor introspective enough to write a book, so they gave him a personality disorder (he couldn't decide what to order on a Chinese menu), and sent him to a shrink, Julie Andrews, who provides the exposition.

Which brings us to another problem. In writing the script, producer/director Blake Edwards filled it with pretentious dialogue. Normal people, in fact, even very bright people, seldom have 7 5 syllable or more words in a sentence, but Edwards' characters all do. Nearly any actress could have delivered lines like, "How did that make you feel?" "Tell me more about your mother," or "That's it, fuck me till my teeth rattle," but it took Julie Andrews to get through the dialogue without spraining a tongue. Of yes, and Reynolds is cured when, due to an earthquake, he sees up her skirt. The two end up lovers, and the Board of Licensing doesn't take away her license. Henry Mancini wrote the score, but didn't manage even one recognizable tune.

They tried, in a few places, to retain plot elements from the original film, but they sucked at it. Reynolds sees a perfect pair of legs through a window, and chases them. He is nearly hit by a cop car, and jumps backwards into a gardener's truck, who pulls out just as Burt lands in back. The cops stop the truck, and Burt spots the car the legs got into, and writes down the license plate number. He then crashes his car into a tree, calls his insurance company, and gives them the number as belonging to the car that hit his. The owner agrees to meet him in a filling station, where she admits that it was her cousin that Reynolds saw. Burt puts the heavy moves on her anyway. She tells him that she is naturally cautious, realizes it is her cousin he wants, not her, thinks he is a woman chaser, which she hates, and is in a stable relationship.

Reynolds thinks she is lying about the cousin, and starts stalking her, but gets caught. He then smashes her tail light, and leaves a note with his address on the car. So what does this cautious woman who is in a relationship and doesn't like him do when she finds that he is stalking her and smashed her tail light? Why jumps into bed with him, of course. The rest of the script is equally intelligent. While I like physical humor in a Marx Bros. film, the slapstick here was way out of place. In short, this film was a total disaster. It is, however, well photographed, and available on a good DVD transfer. Were it not for good production value, this would score lower, but I will give it a D+.

The Critics Vote

  • Edwards version: Maltin 2/4. (No English-language reviews for the Truffaut version)

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDB readers say 4.7/10 for the Blake Edwards version.
  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDB readers say 6.9/10 for the Truffaut version.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, the American film is a C- (Scoop) to D+ (Tuna). Scoop says, "It's not good, but it is watchable (barely) - but why did they make it?" Tuna thinks it is worse than that! Tuna grades the Truffaut original a B-.

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