Willie Bauche, a Hollywood producer, becomes so obsessed with turning his wife, Ann Garantier, into the sexiest star in Hollywood that he neglects her real needs. Feeling lonely and tired ...
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Willie Bauche, a Hollywood producer, becomes so obsessed with turning his wife, Ann Garantier, into the sexiest star in Hollywood that he neglects her real needs. Feeling lonely and tired of Tinseltown, Ann returns to her native France and finds herself attracted to Marco Ranieri, a handsome and very attentive pilot. When Willie hears about the budding affair, he flies into a rage and hires assassins to kill his rival. Unfortunately for him, the killers are romantics and decide that Ann and Marco are so in love that both must die so they can be together always. When Willie finds out, he rushes over to France to try and save his wife.
Challenge: Is there a worse film about movie-making?
How could an insider like Nunnally Johnson make a movie about Hollywood that's this boring and just plain bad?
Clearly Johnson knows movies, yet he manages to do just about everything wrong with "The Man Who Understood Women," starting with that title. Henry Fonda is disastrously miscast as a maverick, manipulative director, and Cesare Danova could have been replaced by his likeness in granite. Leslie Caron is adorable and she works hard, but "Ann Garantier" is an idea, not a character. As for the telescoped plot, I believe Aaron Spelling himself would have rejected it as too simplistic. Nothing works, not the direction (dull), the camera-work (lazy), or the editing (pedestrian). There is the occasional witty line-- Johnson's forte is writing, after all-- but there's way too much dialog. Movies are a visual medium, not a verbose one, but Johnson's characters talk incessantly while his static images communicate nothing.
As it happens, a number of big films circa 1960 were about movie-making. This is by far the worst. Godard's half-baked "Contempt" is at least cinematic. "Two Weeks In Another Town" has energy, largely thanks to Edward G. Robinson and Claire Trevor. And then there's "8 1/2." Fellini's masterpiece and Johnson's dud are similarly long-- 135-140 minutes. But "8 ½" is exhilarating, revelatory, inventive, visually rich, and memorable; "The Man Who Understood Women" fails on all counts.
Johnson had a hand in writing more than 70 movies, producing more than 40, and directing 8. After seeing this and "Black Widow," I can only conclude that 8 was at least 2 too many.
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