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"AND NOW LADIES AND GENTLEMEN"
(2003) (Jeremy Irons, Patricia Kaas) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: Suffering from similar but undiagnosed bouts of blackouts and amnesia, a jewel thief and a lounge singer fall in love after meeting in Morocco where they hope they'll find a cure for what ails them.
PLOT:
Valentin (JEREMY IRONS) is an English professional thief and con man who uses his charisma and wits to pull off his jobs without anyone getting hurt. He dreams, however, of selling the high seas in a yacht purchased from Thierry (THIERRY LHERMITTE), but suffers from bouts of blackouts and amnesia. Even so, and despite living with Francoise (ALESSANDRA MARTINES), he decides to sail around the world by himself.

After another blackout session at sea, he finds himself in a coastal Moroccan town under the care of Dr. Lamy (JEAN-MARIE BIGARD), who's also treating another blackout sufferer, Jane Lester (PATRICIA KAAS). She's a Parisian nightclub lounge singer whose boyfriend has decided to run off with her singing partner, and is now in the African country looking for a cure for her ailment and a new lease on life, much like Valentin.

The two meet, become friends and head off for the tomb of a Moroccan leader that supposedly will cure any malady. Yet, when the jewels of the wealthy Madame Falconnetti (CLAUDIA CARDINALE) end up being stolen, the authorities soon suspect that Valentin is their man. From that point on, the jewel thief and the lounge singer hope that their chance meeting might change their lives for the better.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Although I'm sure they're not a welcomed development in life - unless one is conveniently trying to get out of some sort of self-made mess - amnesia and related blackouts are a nifty if over and often poorly used storytelling device. After all, what better way to add intrigue and mystery to a character and story than to have a figure - and thus the reader or viewer - not be sure of who they are, where they were and/or what they might have done.

Such a malady and dramatic device are part of what fuels the awkward titled "And Now Ladies and Gentlemen." Part medical mystery, part love story and a whole lot of "To Catch a Thief," the film certainly isn't lacking of material. Yet, for as many things that are right and/or good about the film, just as many or more are wrong, misguided or just plain bad.

Among the former is the presence of Jeremy Irons ("Die Hard 3," "Reversal of Fortune"), a reputable actor whose talent, screen presence and incredible voice can breathe life into an otherwise listless and unremarkable character. He doesn't need to do that throughout the film, however, as veteran director Claude Lelouch ('Un home et une femme," "Les Uns et les autres") - who co-wrote the script with Pierre Leroux ("One 4 All") and Pierre Uytterhoeven ("One 4 All," "Bandits") - sets up some fun, clever and engaging con and jewel heist moments.

Such scenes are full of vitality and pop off the screen. Unfortunately, they don't last as the film's plot segues into something entirely different before finally returning to the subject matter late in the film (when the rest of the "To Catch a Thief" similarities kick in).

In between those bookends, Lelouch delves into those blackouts that also connect in with the subplot featuring singer turned actress Patricia Kaas (making her feature debut) playing a jilted performer who suffers from a similar set of maladies. That's not necessarily a bad thing as it piques our interest about why these two characters have the same problem or why they eventually meet.

Then there's the more intriguing element that perhaps some or all of what occurs isn't really happening at all, but rather is just a side-effect of the malady and/or a figment of one and/or the other's imagination. Such thoughts kept me hooked for a while, even through Lelouch's suddenly slow and uneven pacing. Alas, such heightened anticipation of the answers to the plot tease turns out to be for naught as there's no great or even interesting revelation or answers.

Instead, Lelouch and his two characters traipse around a coastal Moroccan town in search of a cure, all while the local cops suspect that Valentin has returned to his cat burglar ways, and as a subplot featuring a boxer, his wife and a handyman ultimately amounts to nothing.

All of which is too bad since there's so much potential here, no matter how tangled and convoluted its surroundings might be. I'm guessing that the filmmakers' theme is that love is the cure for most any malady and perhaps diehard romantics and art house fans might appreciate that and the rest of the offerings. For everyone else, however, this is likely to amount to a disappointing and ultimately pretentious whole lot of nothing.

Beyond Irons, Kaas is decent as the lovelorn singer, even if her character isn't developed that well and the chemistry between her and Irons is hit or miss. The likes of Thierry Lhermitte ("Le Divorce," "The Closet"), Alessandra Martines ("Amnesia," "One 4 All") and Claudia Cardinale ("Claretta," "La Pelle") are all fine in their respective, if small and/or scattershot roles. Even so, their characters don't really amount to much in either a standalone or collective standpoint.

Despite looking great from a visual perspective, starting off rather well, and containing an interesting hook that should keep viewers engaged for a while, the film seems to suffer from the same malady affecting its principals. Namely, that's forgetting and/or confusing what it wants to do and be. "And Now Ladies and Gentlemen" rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed May 16, 2003 / Posted August 8, 2003


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