Leonard Cohen, iconic creator of poetry and music, his seductive voice and personality certainly charmed many women during his life. He may also be a powerful creative source for artists in other areas. It is the case of Montreal native, now an L.A. resident, Matthew Bissonnette, who directed and wrote this film presented as “inspired” by works by Cohen. The question is whether being inspired by a great artist necessarily translates into great cinematic work.
A Canadian-Irish coproduction, “Death of a Ladies’ Man”, features Gabriel Byrne as Samuel O’Shea, a 64-year-old literature professor. He is now facing the imminence of death since he has been diagnosed with a brain tumour. He is also a heavy drinker, and one day finds his second wife in bed with another guy. His children from his first marriage don’t seem to care much about him. On top of all that, he has started to have hallucinations. One of the most persistent is the appearance of his father Ben (Brian Gleeson)—who had died when he was a child—and with whom he would engage in long chats. His hallucinations also take a toll on his teaching duties’ performance, combined with the effects of his alcoholism.
He then decides to take some time in his family shack in Ireland. In the local town, he meets Charlotte (Jessica Paré), with whom he starts a torrid romance. Things seem to go well until his daughter Josée (Karelle Tremblay) shows up and breaks the fantasy in which Samuel is immersed.
While the music by Cohen and some of the surrealistic scenes provide a few interesting moments, this movie fails to convey a convincing portrait of this rather former “ladies’ man.” In fact, what we see through the story is its sad decline, but not in the poetic or nostalgic tone that we could find in Cohen’s lyrics. Instead, the spectator never experiences a more comprehensive look into the main character since it is presented through an erratic and irregular narrative. Byrne’s superficial portrayal of Samuel, then, leaves the spectator with a fragmented picture of the man: neither the lover, the somehow disillusioned professor, nor the father come out persuasively. No, definitely, and despite Cohen’s ubiquitous music, “Death of a Ladies’ Man” is not seductive enough. This is Bissonnette’s latest approach to Cohen’s inspirational work, after “Looking for Leonard” made in 2002, which was yet a more forgettable movie.
To be released on March 12 on Apple/iTunes and other platforms. In cinemas on March 19.
Running Time: 101 min