September 27, 2019

filmsgraded.com:
And Now... Ladies and Gentlemen... (2002)
Grade: 73/100

Director: Claude Lelouch
Stars: Jeremy Irons, Patricia Kaas, Claudia Cardinale

What it's about. An English and French language romance drama set mostly in Morocco. Retired jewelry store thief Jeremy Irons and lounge singer Patricia Kaas share the same medical problem: unexplained blackouts. Brain tumors are suspected. The two meet because they share the same doctor, Jean-Marie Bigard. Irons and Kaas quickly become friends, but their relationship cannot progress since Kaas is still in love with trumpet player Samuel Labarthe, even though he has chosen Kaas' best friend, Laura Mayne-Kerbrat, over her. Meanwhile, Irons has a hot brunette wife, Alessandra Martines, back home many miles (and a country) away. But Irons isn't worried about Martines, since she is with his best friend Thierry Lhermitte, and Irons doesn't particularly care if they have an affair.

And, after all, Irons has more pressing concerns than scoring with Kaas. It turns out that he does have a brain tumor, and needs an operation. To make matters worse, Claudia Cardinale's jewelry has been stolen, and Irons is the primary suspect. Police inspector Amidou is determined to make Irons confess, even if it requires torture.

How others will see it. And Now... Ladies and Gentlemen... was a box office disappointment, and its video release fared no better. Today at imdb.com, it barely manages 2K user votes, confirmation of minimal public interest in the movie. It screened at Caanes but failed to secure any nominations from any film festivals.

The imdb.com user ratings are middling to good. Men grade it 6.2 out of 10. Women see it only moderately better, at 6.6 out of 10. But a silver lining exists. The "most helpful" user reviews are laudatory, e.g. "beautiful film in every respect", "a brilliant movie", etc. This suggests that an audience exists for this movie that, for the most part, has not yet found it.

How I felt about it. Two years ago, I endured six rounds of chemotherapy to rid myself of something called non-Hodgkins B-cell lymphoma. Days after my second round of chemo, my wife of 26 years died from inoperable brain tumors, caused by metastatic colon cancer.

So, I have great sympathy for those burdened by brain tumors, even if they are fictional film characters. I can understand the desperation that would cause Kaas to walk 26 kilometers in the hot midday sun up a hill to the shrine of a deceased saint that might (or might not) cure her maladies. I can understand why a suspect would confess to a crime he didn't commit if it would allow him to get the brain salad surgery necessary to (possibly) save his life.

I hope that it is not standard practice in Morocco to make criminal suspects stand for hours until they confess. I don't recommend dumping your hottie wife off on a friend she is attracted to, while you embark on a fool's quest such as solo sailing around the world. I don't approve of robbing jewelry stores, even if you exhibit good manners and wear clever disguises while doing so. And even if a kindly pretty stranger walks you to the nearest doctor, it may be unwise to trust her to care for your six-figure boat.

But then, the movie isn't about Irons, though he is first billed and has considerable screen time. It's more about Patricia Kaas, whose plight is more sympathetic since she was never a career criminal. It's a huge bonus that she is an excellent singer, as a chanteuse instead of a belter, and it's nice that she sticks up for her friends, even those she has just met.

It's a shame that there is very limited interest in slow moving bilingual character studies. Or in romances without any sex scenes. Or in Claudia Cardinale movies made after she has turned forty. Or in mystery dramas in which Sylvie Loeillet's new hire Yvan Attal is obviously the culprit.

But the user reviews indicate that about half of those who somehow see this obscure romance think highly of it. Perhaps it's because the dialogue is more realistic than preposterous. Or because the characters are ingratiating instead of annoying or colorful. But mostly it is because they are fans of the director, Claude Lelouch, who is still cranking out French films to this day at age 82.