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Volume 5, Number 36

This Week's Reviews:  And Now... Ladies and Gentlemen.

This Week's Omissions:  Camp, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, The Order.

Claude Lelouch

Jeremy Irons
Patricia Kaas
Thierry Lhermitte
Alessandra Martines

Release: 1 Aug. 03

And Now... Ladies and Gentlemen


There is an allure to And Now... Ladies and Gentleman, but it is so muddled in a cascade of inanity and silliness that whatever was so tempting at first becomes merely the background to a story that is among the worst of the year. Or maybe itís just a mediocre story told so haphazardly. Or maybe... Hell, I have no idea because Iím still trying to figure out exactly what it was I watched.

The film opens with the scheming of master thief and master of disguise Valentin Valentine (Irons), who has an amazing ability to put on dreadfully bad costumes and walk out with millions of dollars worth of money and jewels (no, really, it is amazing because one cannot imagine how any of these costumes dupe anyone, unless he was trying to look like Dana Carveyís Church Lady). He also has the significant other in the beautiful Francoise (Martines), a woman susceptible to the thievery of another man, Thierry (Lhermitte), who doesnít even need to wear anything other than his suave French caricature.

Valentin is oblivious to this because he has decided to take a sabbatical by sailing across the Mediterranean in his tiny skiff. Too bad he has an ailment that makes him black out whenever the script calls for it, including when he is at the wheel, allowing him to sail astray into the Moroccan waters where some boaters save him. A local doctor decides itís a brain tumor, tells Valentin of the short life he has ahead, and leaves the rapscallion to drift around more than he had already begun doing.

Turns out, thereís another person with this problem in the same city. Sheís Jane Lester (Kaas), a barroom singer making a meager wage singing to people oblivious to her presence. When she begins forgetting lyrics (which is a shame since Kaas is a far better singer than actress), the ailment becomes hazardous to her way of living, however short it may be.

Luckily, there is a mystical healing place just a 12 day walk through the desert. Considering that Valentin is also under investigation for jewelry theft in the hotel heís staying at, this is considered the best time for the two to begin walking, as the police follow ever so slowly on their heels.

Although all signs point this way for much of the film (while it takes an hour before they even meet in the film), the fact that itís a Claude Lelouch film should instantaneously introduce the film as a romantic one. The problem is that Lelouch also has the baggage of being the maker of aloof, strikingly uneven romantic films since his breakthrough in 1969ís A Man and a Woman.

Whatever semblance of exciting romanticism that could be found in that film is nowhere to be found in Lelouchís latest work. While the film does have some strong ideas, most of them are swept aside in the myriad of insubstantial storytelling devices. There is no chemistry, there is no story, there is no climax. Everything in the film seems to happen without the slightest interest in making a somewhat comprehendible product. Admittedly, elements of the film could be made into workable parts of a different story, but it doesnít work here in the least.

And Now... Ladies and Gentlemen is an incorrigible mess, moving across story arcs like the vistas of the deserts that fill the filmís duration. However beautiful the imagery may be, as well as the accompanying music, nothing really insightful can be found. The promise of something good coming out of a onetime master filmmaker, a magnificent actor, a splendid singer, and a wonderful setting is, as the film soon shows, merely a mirage that no faith healer can conjure.

©2003, DAVID L. BLAYLOCK,, 5 September 2003

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