The Canadian press has been enthusiastic and full of praise for Gabriel’s new film.

After all, Leonard Cohen is an icon in Montreal, where much of the movie was filmed, and Matt Bissonnette is a home-grown Canadian director. One might think Canadian journalists would be predisposed to simply say “Home run!” or, perhaps in this case, “Goal!” and leave it at that. And some media outlets did that.

But others went deeper and those are the reviews and articles I share with you here. Do follow the links to the full text and enjoy these essays on writer/director Matt Bissonnette’s intriguing and impressionistic look at the journey of one very particular ladies’ man, Samuel O’Shea, played with brittle wit and touching vulnerability by Gabriel Byrne.

The Ex-Press/Katherine Monk
March 1, 2021

Death of a Ladies Man guzzles ego, self-indulgence, and Leonard Cohen’s catalogue of poetic misery

Matthew Bissonnette’s new feature is not based on the famed Montreal poet-Lothario’s writing, but it finds the same bruised skies and ice-covered steeples that inspired his work — and in the process, gives Gabriel Byrne a clean shot at creative narcissism.

These movies about older men experiencing a crisis of conscience are a staple in every movie tradition as generation after generation attempts to make peace with the previous one, but Bissonnette brings some freshness to the exercise by injecting Samuel with just enough humour to temper the self-indulgent self-loathing. We can thank Byrne’s Irish-eyed twinkle for animating the character with a gentle heart, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get all the bitterness and blood that comes with the genre, especially when sons and fathers inhabit the darker corners of every remembered room.

Samuel keeps seeing his death father (Brian Gleeson), and because he’s a literary man, he’s able to sew all the Shakespearean threads into his own little tapestry of experience, quoting the Bard and the ‘Danish play’, and using his creative power to normalize what — for the audience — is not normal at all. In addition to seeing his own father, Samuel also starts to see tiger-headed transgendered servers at the local cafe, hockey players doing ice-dance couples choreography (the best part of the movie, eat your heart out Blades of Glory), and beautiful women who inevitably fall for his slick moves and literary banter.

Yes, it’s all familiar pastiche that feels like Kingsley Amis redux when it’s funny and pathetic, but there’s a twitch of novelty that keeps tickling the viewer thanks to Byrne’s presence because he’s always lost in the given moment. We’re able to float with the character as he’s pulled down the river. We don’t even judge him because he’s too busy judging himself, and that, too, is an extension of his own narcissism — which forever puts the character at arm’s length and renders him a curious exhibit in the museum of masculine ego.

That Shelf/Rachel West
March 10, 2021

Gabriel Byrne battles his inner demons in the Canadian-Irish drama inspired by Leonard Cohen.

Written and directed by Matt Bissonnette (Passenger Side), Death Of A Ladies’ Man is a delightful surprise. Samuel’s hallucinations—whether it’s having a pint with Frankenstein’s monster or watching giant Canadian geese reign fire down upon Montreal—are used to charmingly comic effect and belie the film’s mid-size budget. Viewers teeter between the various realities of Samuel’s mental state as the film shifts wildly between the downright silly to the darker side of alcoholism.

But Death Of A Ladies’ Man isn’t just the story of Samuel, it’s one of addiction (be it to drugs, alcohol or the opposite sex), mental illness, and how the two are closely entwined. That said, the film avoids the perils and pitfalls of similar morality tales and instead, gains strength from its focus on one man’s undoing as he falls deeper into his own version of Hell. Though his hallucinations of a woman with a tiger’s head may seem silly, Bissonnette makes it clear throughout that Samuel’s issues are grounded in reality. He smartly zeros in on the consequences of Samuel’s life choices and the complicated space between death and dying, giving us a rare look inside this kind of illness. . .

The many differing elements of the film fall neatly into place thanks to a great lead performance by Byrne. The 70-year-old Irishman delights equally as the charming and maddeningly drunken playboy, and the newly doting dad Samuel never managed to be in his younger years. With all due respect to Byrne and his supporting acting choices of late (hello, Hereditary), Death Of A Ladies’ Man is a fitting showcase worthy of the actor’s talents.

The cast and their director in Montreal
Image provided by Xavier Sotelo on Twitter

Nevertheless, his (Bissonnette’s) film seduces, thanks to its overall finesse and the talent of its main performer, Gabriel Byrne, with an imposing presence and a terribly human fragility.

  –La Presse

The following is less a review and more of a background article, with lots of Gabriel quotes from an interview he provided about his work on the film.

Montreal Gazette/T’Cha Dunlevy
March 12, 2021

Leonard Cohen’s songs, spirit infuse Montreal-shot film Death of a Ladies’ Man

Matthew Bissonnette has paid homage to the Montreal icon before, but his new film takes the tribute to another level.

When Bissonnette sent Byrne the script, the actor was intrigued by a story he could relate to, and a character he felt he could inhabit.

“I immediately connected with it,” said the actor, on the phone from his New York home, in January. “I have known people like Samuel, men who are revered for the fact that they failed rather than succeeded. There’s a kind of awe for the underdog who never quite makes it and is consumed by demons, alcohol and drugs. It’s a particular kind of Celtic romantic myth.

“I also identified with the humanity beneath the initial perception of who this man was — that underneath, there’s this sensitive, suffering, terrified man who has lived selfishly most of his life and is now awakening, essentially to himself but also to love.

“That’s a theme echoed in a lot of Leonard Cohen’s work: What is love? The imperfection of it, the yearning of it, longing for it and losing of it. And of course, everything Cohen wrote about had a shadow of death over it, the collision between life and death, and a longing for something not necessarily religious but beyond this world.”

“I really loved what the film is saying,” he said. “It’s something Leonard Cohen would have endorsed. Light gets into this character at the end of this film.”

Growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, Byrne found himself inherently drawn to Cohen’s creative output.

“(He was the) voice of my generation,” Byrne said. “There were very few great writers at that time — of lyrics, I’m talking about. Essentially, Leonard Cohen was a poet who put poetry to music. The only other one I loved in that category was Dylan.

“These were men not writing just banal lyrics like ‘I love you baby’ and stuff like that. This was contemplative, insightful lyrics about the nature of life, lyrics that made you think. And the tunes that he put to them were sometimes simple, but very powerful in their simplicity.”

Mural of Leonard Cohen in Montreal at night

French language reviews

Le Devoir/François Lévesque
March 12, 2021

Gabriel Byrne, être séduit par un rôle

De fait, il est dans Death of a Ladies’ Man plusieurs séquences fantaisistes, la première survenant lors d’une partie de hockey. Sans crier gare, l’hymne national devient Like a Bird on a Wire, et les joueurs de hockey de se muer en patineurs artistiques. « J’étais conscient qu’il se pouvait que ces passages aient l’air ridicules si c’était mal exécuté, admet Gabriel Byrne. Mais je crois que le petit budget a en l’occurrence aidé : ces séquences sont intrinsèquement fantaisistes, oui, mais elles ne sont guère différentes de la réalité ; elles représentent la perception que Samuel a alors de la réalité. »

Pour le compte, davantage de moyens n’aurait pas changé l’approche de Matthew Bissonnette : « C’était fondamental pour moi que les envolées fantaisistes soient réalisées à la caméra — et je tiens à saluer le travail extraordinaire de l’équipe technique de Montréal — plutôt qu’en effets spéciaux numériques, plus tard en postproduction. D’abord, j’aime les choses réelles, que j’ai l’impression de pouvoir toucher. Ensuite, je trouve préférable pour les interprètes de pouvoir interagir avec du tangible plutôt qu’avec un écran vert. De façon générale, j’affectionne les films qui possèdent cette qualité-là, comme ceux de David Lynch, qui sont à la fois insolites et concrets. »

A quote from Gabriel, translated from the French:

“I always wonder what people will keep from the film; what they will keep in mind. In this case, there is obviously this relationship between Samuel and his father, and between Samuel and his children. But there is also all this self-destruction, this self-sabotage, these reports of failure and this possibility of redemption at the end … I am very happy with this film, because what it says touches me, and also because Matt succeeded in staying true to his vision.”

La Presse/Alexandre Vigneault
March 12, 2021

Dans l’ombre de Leonard Cohen

Deux portraits géants de Leonard Cohen ornent des murs de Montréal. L’un, rue Napoléon, près du boulevard Saint-Laurent, à quelques coins de rue de sa maison du parc du Portugal ; l’autre, rue Crescent, qui donne l’impression de veiller sur la ville lorsqu’on l’aperçoit du belvédère du mont Royal.

Il y a un peu de ça dans le film de Matt Bissonnette : Death of a Ladies’ Man n’est pas un film sur Leonard Cohen, mais il est traversé par son esprit, sa poésie et, bien sûr, sa musique. « Les thèmes qui traversent le film sont les mêmes qu’on retrouve dans l’œuvre de Leonard Cohen : le désir, le lâcher-prise, la nostalgie, la dualité entre le rêve et la réalité », souligne l’acteur Gabriel Byrne.

Merci beaucoup Angelle! Your help in creating this posting is greatly appreciated. 😊

Death of a Ladies’ Man will screen in the USA and other countries sometime this summer or possibly next Fall. Be patient! And stay tuned! heart

One Comment

  1. Thanks for the media roundup Stella. Congrats to the fantastic cast and crew for the really great reviews! It’s such a challenge just to get a feature film made in Canada – (and also a feat in Ireland) . I streamed it twice at the Whistler Film Festival. It is a must-see, with strong performances, and a solid and inventive narrative that grapples with our human frailties. All set against the words and music of Montreal’s Leonard Cohen. J’aime !

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