A Man and a Woman
A Man and a Woman (20 Years Later)
Damage
Jeremy Irons
Patricia Kaas
Piano Bar

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AND NOW LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

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NOTE: Another great spoiler/review sent in by cmzapffe.

An offbeat romance from Claude Lelouch, the French director of the smash hit, "A Man and A Woman"(1966). This is the story of an English jewel thief and a French cabaret singer, both of whom find out that their ever more frequent blackouts are due to massive brain tumors.

While the writing, also by director Lelouch, is uninspired, this movie with its ungainly title soars like a swan when either of the two very charismatic leads are on the screen. And when together, their chemistry sparkles. Jeremy Irons is wonderful as the world weary jewel thief and the lovely Patricia Kaas is a revelation as a heavenly chanteuse as well as being a very talented actress in this, her first starring movie role.

"And Now... Ladies and Gentlemen"(My Grade, B+) is the rather ungainly title for the new movie by French director, Claude Lelouch. Sadly, the scripting of this movie is not much better. There are moments, especially towards the end of the movie, where the story really drags. This is particularly noticeable when each of several later scenes end, all giving the mistaken assumption that the movie is also about to end. Not so, for this movie spends a full two hours and 13 minutes to tell its tale.

More problematic is the fact that this movie is filled with Valentin's dreams that offer an alternate version of his reality. His conscience is far more active while he is asleep than when he is awake. He often dreams of the repayment of all of his ill gotten gains back to those whom he has robbed over the years. These dreams fill the movie with a moralizing tone that is not reflected during his waking hours. And Valentin's later dreams smack so closely to current reality as initially to be confusing to those of us watching the movie.

Furthermore, this movie is weighed down by the leaden and pedantic scripting by Lelouch that fails to let us look into the hearts and souls of these two very attractive leads. For example, Valentin walks away from his earlier love interest, Soleil (Sylvie Loeillet), another charmer who still loves him even though he has capriciously decided that they are through as an item. His explanation to her (and to us) is less than convincing.

Neither Valentin nor Lester has been given the dialogue to express their growing love for the other, leaving us to conjecture that this is all about little more than two beautiful people being thrown together by rotten circumstances.

This would ordinarily be enough to sink a movie. That is, a normal movie without the extraordinary talents of Irons and Kaas, for both Irons and Kaas ooze personal charm and charisma and their romantic chemistry lights up the screen. We know that Jeremy Irons is always good, but newcomer Patricia Kaas is a cinematic revelation with her sultry good looks and knockout cabaret singing ability.

These two salvage this movie as an interesting love story between two very attractive leads who meet and fall in love at a seaside port city in Morocco. It must also be mentioned here that the costars in this movie are all well cast and, in some instances, are fleshed out as personalities even better than the leads. Thus, the unusual locales, beautiful music, and the splendid costars raise this movie far above its pedestrian dialogue and make it a movie well worth seeing.
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"And Now... Ladies and Gentlemen" begins with an African faith healer clasping the head of a beautiful blonde woman trying to rid her of some inner demons. The woman looks on dispassionately, perhaps even with a note of disbelief, at all this racket. The faith healer soon gives up and tells her that her only hope for a cure is to trek into the Moroccan mountains to the shrine of a local saint that, like Lourdes, is famous for curing the incurable.

The ungainly title of this movie is actually taken from the name of a racing sailboat purchased by Valentin Valentin, an aging jewel thief played by Jeremy Irons whose name comes from the fact that he was born on St. Valentine's Day. In spite of his double hearted name, Valentin is much more cerebral than romantic. In fact, he is hardly a romanticist at all. His dream has always been to get away from it all in one of those around the world solo sailing races.

He has long been a thief of high end jewelry stores as well as being a con man of the first order.

His first heist in this movie is to walk into an exclusive jewelry store and misrepresent himself as an agent of the CID out to catch the jewel thief that they understand has been casing this store. He tells the manager to give the thief whatever he asks for because they will be waiting outside to apprehend him with the evidence. Naturally, he later comes in disguised as an old man and walks off with a bundle with nary a shot being fired and the real police left without notification, leaving the manager confused and then furious that he has been conned.

Another heist has him taking an employee as hostage, only the lovely young woman, Soleil (Sylvie Loeillet), is in reality his confederate on the inside. They have become lovers after he spiked the tire of her car and then showed up like Sir Galahad to rescue this pretty damsel in a manufactured distress of Valentin's making.

Perhaps because he has finally stolen enough to meet his dreams, or, more likely, because he has grown tired of his younger French amour, Valentin some time later buys the boat of his dreams and leaves his latest flame with the yacht's former owner in trade as he sails off by himself into the Mediterranean. He shortly blacks out in the middle of his trip and collapses to the deck of his boat. It is not for many hours that he later comes to drifting somewhere off the coast of Morocco.

His costar is the heretofore unknown Patricia Kaas in her first movie role, let alone her first starring role. (After this movie, there will be many more.) She plays the role of Jane Lester, a heavenly chanteuse who specializes in singing love songs in smokey Parisian jazz clubs.

Paired with her best friend, a young Black girl who is also a talented singer, Jane is shocked and disheartened when she finds out that her long time lover, who is the trumpet player for their band, has been two timing her with her fellow singer. She confronts him and forces him to choose between "Black and White." He chooses Black and Jane leaves the band for other gigs.

One day the police stop her as she has been driving nonstop around a Parisian circle in her small car for 20 minutes. They suspect her to be drunk, but the breathalyzer test shows her to be sober. As time goes on, Jane experiences moments of forgetfulness that prove damaging to her career. She forgets the lyrics right in the middle of her song, and it is only by walking among the patrons sitting at their cocktail tables with an understanding band playing along in order to cover for her momentary silence that she is able to disguise the nature of her problem. Nevertheless, these bouts of memory loss make it hard for her to keep the best night club jobs in Paris, and Jane is soon forced to go wherever the money is. She ends up at a classy Moroccan hotel on the Mediterranean sea coast.

Valentin is staying at the same hotel and what eventually brings them together is that both happen to be seeing the same doctor in Morocco, perhaps the only neurosurgeon in the city. Tragically, the diagnoses for both are brain tumors in advanced stages. As Valentin is the later to be examined, it is to him that the doctor gives the news that another European, a young woman, shares his fate. Fascinated by this coincidence, he is even more enthralled when he first lays his eyes on the beautiful Jane Lester and then quickly falls in love with her when he hears her sing.

One night Jane is singing in the cabaret bar and then just wanders off in the middle of her song, oblivious to all around her. Luckily, Valentin follows and rescues her just as two swarthy men offer to bring her to a "wedding party." "She is with me," he proclaims, just as Jane snaps to, wondering where she is and what she is doing there.

A side story concerns a wealthy Italian industrialist, Monsieur Falconnetti (Constantin Alexandrov), and his bored Italian wife, Madam Falconnetti (Claudia Cardinale), who has aged to the point of almost being unrecognizable. They are also staying at this seaside hotel, although the husband often travels back to Italy for business reasons. Late one night a thief rappels down the hotel wall from the roof and sneaks into M. Falconnetti's room while her husband is away. Threatening her with his knife, he forces her to open the wall safe and absconds with her valuable jewelry.

As Valentin has a rap sheet, suspicion quickly falls upon him, but Jane returns the favor of his rescue by telling the police that he has an alibi, which is the fact that he had spent the night with her. For the moment, this is enough for them and they go looking for other leads, including that of a young Swiss mountain climber who is also staying at the hotel. Unfortunately for both the police and Valentin, this young man IS the real jewel thief, but he is also the paid boy toy of M. Falconnetti. She not only believes him to be incapable of robbing her, she is also not about to upset her apple cart of love.

The offbeat love story is how both Valentin and Jane cope with their sorry health news. Her solution is to go to the shrine and hope for the best. Valentin offers to accompany her, so they set off by bus for the interior of Morocco.

As both believe that some personal effort must be involved for this shrine to work, they decide to hike the last 20 kilometers to the shrine in the blazing desert heat.

There is only one rest stop on the way, and that is a small, dusty village with a bistro and refreshments available for the thirsty, hungry, and the weary. While relaxing under the awning in the midday heat, police cars roar up and take Valentin back to the town jail, where he is forced to stand up for hours on end until he confesses.

Of course, Valentine can't confess, because he didn't pull the heist, but the doctor claims that perhaps he has blacked out from his brain tumor and can't remember doing it. Valentin slowly comes to the realization that the police will never believe in his innocence and that he will get no relief from his jail cell torture until he "confesses." He decides to tell the police that he did steal the jewels and that he will tell them where they are hidden after his operation.

Even though an operation of this difficulty has little chance of success, the police are forced to rely on that small chance in the hopes of regaining the Falconnetti jewels. Valentin has many dreams while in the operating room, one of which involves him repaying the sidewalk vendor in London for the pilferage of her statues that he later sold across the Themes for easy money. This periodic thievery many years before marked his start in the business of crime.

Fortune finally smiles on these two in the form of two suspicious and very observant hotel maids. They have suspected Falconnetti's lover all along because they have smelled her perfume on his bed sheets. They also have noticed from their window perches higher up in the hotel that Ms. Falconnetti and her lover always seem to be on their cell phones at the same time. Bringing their suspicions to the police, they rifle his suitcase on the day of his departure and find the stolen jewels just as he is about to flee Morocco.

Valentin wakes up from his operation a free man and Jane Lester finds her way to the baths of the shrine and then to the holy grave site itself. Forcing her way into the crowded room, we watch her as we hope for the best. Miraculously, it later turns out that she has been cured and that Valentin has survived his operation. They set sail for France in his racing sailboat, "Ladies and Gentlemen," with both not quite knowing what to do next.

Back in France, Valentin and Soleil cheer and hug each other in the crowd as the yachtsman takes off in an around the world race. Jane is herself in the crowd behind them as she calls Valentin on his cell phone. Pretending to be back in Paris, she is once again heart broken to see Valentin and Soleil kiss each other. She hangs up and quickly leaves for Paris with another sad torch song in her heart.

But it was only a kiss of friendship. Jane has been given the wrong impression. Soleil has finally gotten over Valentin, and, after all, the yachtsman is crazy about her.

Once again singing back with her former band, she looks up late one dark evening to see Valentin coming down the aisle to claim her for his own.

She smiles quietly to herself, happy at last at having found a man worthy of her trust and her love.

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