The Man Who Loved Women

(Blake Edwards, USA, 1983)


Writer-producer-director Blake Edwards' The Man Who Loved Women is the remake of a 1977 François Truffaut film of the same title. It is a little-heralded but very curious item.

On one level, it's a simple, saucy Burt Reynolds comedy about a man who is so obsessed with the inner and outer beauty of all women, and so compelled to pay homage to this beauty, that he becomes intimately involved with as many members of the species as possible.

But, even if Edwards inevitably includes several scenes of high bedroom farce, this is not a jolly film about a Don Juan and his victories.

In fact, it is a pained, melancholic, almost agonised testament to a New Man: a man driven by the highest principles of sublime love, art (the hero is a sculptor) and the search for self.

Like many of Edwards' films, the story unfolds from a narration offered up on a psychotherapist's couch – and like at least one other of his films (That's Life!, 1986), it was co-scripted by Edwards' own psychotherapist.

To make matters even more interesting, Edwards has Reynolds enter into an affair with his female analyst – who is played by the director's wife, Julie Andrews.

What is striking about the New Age Guys in Blake Edwards' movies is not merely that they are sensitive – as they grapple with the old, selfish code of macho irresponsibility which once ruled their lives – but that, in the most dramatic and unlikely cases, they are also doomed.

There is a strange pathos in these movies, centring on the necessity for the Old Man to be not merely rehabilitated, but veritably reborn as a New Man like a phoenix from the flames.

In Edwards' lighter comedies, this simply means that the hero will have to go through a great deal of physical pain and humiliation before he is redeemed – like Dudley Moore in, 10 (1979) at the hands of his dentist, or John Ritter in Skin Deep (1989) being bowled over in his lounge room by a freak tidal wave.

But for Burt, who has been rather fixated on the existential question of death throughout The Man Who Loved Women, it means a freak car accident and the grave – allowing many dozens of women to gather at his tombstone in the last scene and pay tribute to what a rare and special guy he was.

MORE Edwards: The Return of the Pink Panther, Son of the Pink Panther, Switch, Blind Date

© Adrian Martin December 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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