AUGUST 21, 2003
'And Now Ladies and Gentlemen,' Here's and Old Fashioned Story of Fate
By Jeremy Mathews

“And Now Ladies and Gentlemen”
Paramount Classics
Produced and directed by Claude Lelouch
Written by Claudee Lelouch, Pierre Leroux and Pierre Uytterhoeven
Starring Jeremy Irons, Patricia Kaas, Thierry Lhermitte, Alessandra Martines, Claudia Cardinale, Jean-Marie Bigard, Ticky Holdago, Yvan Attal and Amidou
Rated PG-13
Opens Friday at the Broadway
(out of four)

"And Now Ladies and Gentlemen" is about two short term amnesiacs whose lives collide in a Moroccan village. It’s nostalgic for the days of films about destiny and love and fate, when mystic cultures could cure diseases and characters were thrown into love while reciting old philosophy about the feeling.

It’s common territory for writer/director Claude Lelouch, who was pretty much playing around making the film, resulting in an inoffensive movie that’s fun to watch, although there isn’t much to it.

The most interesting parts of the film involve the crimes of its hero, Valentin Valentin (Jeremy Irons). While most films with robberies involve countless gunshots or high-tech gadgets, his crimes are creative solutions to not having the team of experts that one expects from a caper.

Valentin is introduced flashing a police badge and telling a jewelry store owner that his store is going to be robbed in the next three hours, but that the police have the street blocked off and will arrest the famed burglar once he gets outside with the jewels in his hands. This of course, makes the manager more than happy to cooperate when the old man enters the store alone.

Valentin is leaving his wife (Allessandra Martines), whom he met during a robbery, to go on a 100-day trip sailing around the world on a race boat, partly as an attempt to run away from the frequent blackouts that he’s been experiencing. One minute he’s perfectly coherent, the next he doesn’t know where he is or what he’s doing.

Jane (Patricia Kaas), a singer, has the same problem, which she discovers when the police pull her over because she’s been driving around a roundabout for five minutes. She was on her way to a meeting to find out that the trumpet player in her trio was in love with the group’s other singer (who, the film pointlessly points out a few times, is black).

Faced with memory loss while singing, she resorts to cruise gigs and eventually ends up in a hotel in Fez, where Valentin travels to see a doctor after drifting into Morocco when passed out on his boat.

During his blackouts, Valentin has flashbacks to some of his more interesting crimes, but also has fantasies about paying back the people whom he robbed.

The film is a bit hazy on whatever trivial points it’s trying to make about love, but Lelouch creates a nice style for the film, sometimes briefly going into black and white to create the feeling the characters get coming out of a blackout.

The romance that formulates between Jane and Valentin and the conundrum that develops after a jewel robbery that, if Valentin committed, he doesn’t know about, make the film interesting viewing, even if it’s endearingly out of touch with this millennium.


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