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'And Now ... Ladies and Gentlemen'

Friday, August 15, 2003

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Film Critic

It sounds like a rock 'n' roll documentary, but it's a romantic drama. Very romantic, as we might expect from Claude Lelouch, who did as much as Godard or Truffaut to introduce French film to Americans in the '60s.

'And Now ... Ladies and Gentlemen'

RATING: R in nature for sexual themes

STARRING: Jeremy Irons, Patricia Kaas

DIRECTOR: Claude Lelouch


If nothing else, you'll remember "Un Homme et une Femme," the deliriously popular love story (with the famous, much-imitated theme song) of 1966. That's the one "And Now ... Ladies and Gentleman" reminds me of, although the only thing they really have in common is the deliriously romantic French language and ambience.

Transplanted to Morocco. Which is where a lovable, womanizing cad played by Jeremy Irons docks his fancy sailboat (named "Ladies and Gentlemen") on the first leg of an intended race around the world. Irons is a jewel thief by profession -- a particularly innovative and elegant one. But he has a mysterious physical affliction that constitutes a personal as well as an occupational hazard: amnesiac blackouts.

Guess what? Melancholy chanteuse Patricia Kaas has the exact same problem! Sometimes she wanders off the nightclub stage in mid-song and ends up prowling the neighborhood -- still clutching her microphone -- in confusion. She has tried all sorts of cures, to no avail. Maybe a nice trip to Morocco will do the trick.

Irons and Kaas don't know each other, but soon will. They'll soon be collaborating not only on blackouts and love but also on how to evade the cops who are hot on his thieving trail. (You gotta love Gallic cops; they say things like, "Only the innocent don't have alibis.")

If you don't take them too seriously, these people can be very charming. Well, not everyone will find them so. Film historian David Thomson, for one, considers all Lelouch characters to be vapid cosmopolites and all Lelouch films to be "extended commercials for the hope that pain is absorbed by prettiness."

Lelouch, undaunted, finds inspiration in WSSH music and in Alfred de Musset epigrams: "Life is a deep sleep of which love is the dream."

This film is as deep as the deep blue wading pool but, ah, so pretty and so ... so French!

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