The film in the program that best balances comedy, sadness, and death might be The Man Who Loved Women, starring Charles Denner as Bertrand Morane, driven mad by the sight and sound of legs in silk stockings, and often the women attached to them. Sounding like Peter Lorre and looking cool in a brown leather jacket, Denner only occasionally evinces happiness over his conquests. His day job can’t fulfill him—he spends it maneuvering remote control planes (echoing Antoine Doinel’s absurd job controlling toy boats in Bed and Board). Flashbacks to Bertrand’s childhood, with his mother ranting how she’d “be better off with a broken leg than with a little idiot like him,” offer explanations for the origins of his borderline-misogyny, while modern-day Bertrand spins his obsession more romantically, claiming to “hate ladykillers.” Like so many Truffaut heroes, he tries to cling to his childlike stubbornness, even as his doctor points out, “You can’t make love all day. That’s why work was invented.” The movie doesn’t condemn his behavior, even with the perfectly inevitable dénouement. Truffaut knew many women himself, after all. But he slips some self-criticism into the mouths of publishers who are discussing Bertrand’s skirt-chasing memoir: “It’s full of contradictions… he’s mixed up, but he knows it.”
Also included in FIAF’s retro are the farcical and fun A Gorgeous Girl Like Me (with one screening introduced by firecracker star Bernadette Lafont), and Two English Girls, an adaptation of Jules and Jim author Henri-Pierre Roché’s novel about a romantic triangle involving two Bronte-esque sisters. It’s a diverse lineup of films bonded by the personalized vitality and unique interests of their director, who himself so memorably defended the work of “aging” directors like Abel Gance in his early auteur theory essays. The only regret is that Truffaut’s aging ended too soon, only four years after The Last Metro.