Today is the day of a funeral, the funeral of Bertrand Morane (Charles Denner) to be exact and the only people attending are female. This is what he will be remembered for, his success with the ladies, and they have turned out in force to give him a decent send-off. One of them, Geneviève (Brigitte Fossey), watches the mourners arrive and pass by the coffin as it is lowered into the grave, and casts her mind back to what Bertrand was like and how he managed all those conquests, even if he was only around forty years old. And of course, although women were what he lived for, they were also his undoing...
François Truffaut directed and co-wrote, with Michel Fermaud and Suzanne Schiffman, this character study of an ageing lothario and how his lifelong pursuit of female companionship led to, well, his death basically. You are not told how he died until the film is almost over, which might lead you to expect a murder at the hands of a cuckolded husband or even a jealous mistress - there's one candidate for that kind of behaviour, anyway - but when you finally do discover the means of his demise, it's so offhand and absurd that you might be forgiven for regarding it as an anticlimax.
But then, the whole experience is something of a letdown. With a title like The Man Who Loved Women, or L'Homme qui aimait les femmes if you were French, you could be rubbing your hands together in anticipation of a sex-filled romp, but what you actually get is a lot of introspection as Bertrand writes his life story in a book for yet more flashbacks to the ladies he knew and loved. Although if he did love them, he had a funny way of showing it as Denner is one of the least passionate Don Juans ever to grace the screen with his presence.
We're meant to accept Bertrand as having this irresistible attraction for women, but he's really an uptight cold fish, so that's a big flaw in the narrative for a start. In the first reminiscence, things look promising when we see him obsessively pursuing a woman whose legs he admired while in a shop, making up a story that she had hit his parked car so he can track her through the insurers. This prompts speculation that this could be an examination of a man who is a danger to himself in his preoccupation with the fairer sex, but when it turns out the woman in question has left for Montreal, after all that, the damp squib effect grows all the more noticeable.
It's an episodic film that runs through a selection of Bertrand's girlfriends without really making any of them stand out; perhaps that is the point, he could never find someone who was exactly right for him, but it leaves the viewer with a similarly listless feeling. There's the wife (Nelly Borgeaud) who likes to be seduced where they might be discovered in public, the girl from the car hire agency (Sabine Glaser) who he secures as the next best thing to the woman in the shop, and his own ex-wife (Leslie Caron) who makes him regret ever splitting up with her, but the biggest question that dominates proceedings is why? What's the attraction to this bore? When you cannot believe that Bertrand would be having all these sexual triumphs, then the film is at a great disadvantage, and any subsequent musings over his situation are just as hard to be interested in.