And Now Ladies & Gentlemen (3)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


Early on in this Claude Lelouch film, there are shots of a guy who is supposed to be playing the trumpet (backing up a woman who’s acting like she’s singing).  I’ve been watching movies all my life.  I’ve seen unathletic guys like William Bendix try to be Babe Ruth, Woody Harrelson try to look like a basketball player, Alan Alda try to look like a football player (to be fair, Alda was trying to look like George Plimpton looking like a football player, but Plimpton was athletic, at least).  But I’ve never seen a more inept job of acting than this guy trying to look like he’s playing the trumpet.  He’s even worse than Stu Sutcliffe when he was an original member of The Beatles without any musical talent, so he tried to hide on stage pretending to plunk the guitar he was holding but didn’t have a clue how to play. I played the trumpet a little when I was a teenager, so I know a little bit about it.  There’s not much to it, but what there is is all in the lips.  This guy barely presses the trumpet to his lips.  Sometimes, when it shows him playing the trumpet in a band backing up the singer near the end of the movie, you can hear the trumpet, but you can see that the trumpet isn’t anywhere near his mouth!  It’s ludicrous, but it epitomizes the sloppiness with which this movie was made.


Worse, you will never see another movie with more platitudes.  They were so stomach-churningly simplistic I can’t even remember one to quote.  But if you think that something like, “the end is just the beginning and the beginning is just the end and the middle is just something in between,” sounds inane (I made that up), what you hear in the movie makes what I just wrote sound incredibly profound.  And you read one (a lot of this is subtitled) every couple of minutes.


So, Tony, how did you like the movie?


As the legendary Los Angeles sportscaster Jim Healy used to say about former Philadelphia Eagles owner, Leonard Tose, Writer-Director-Producer Lelouch (known mainly for his creation of 1966’s A Man and a Woman), has, uh, lost it (if, indeed, he ever had it).  The first hour is interminable. Valentin Valentin  (Jeremy Irons) is a jewel thief who has a problem with blackouts.  Jane Lester (Patricia Kaas) is a saloon singer who has the same problem.  But the problem with this film is that Valentin and Jane don’t meet until an hour into the film.  Lelouch should have blacked out the first hour.


Lelouch has used a bunch of hackneyed tricks to try to assemble this into what might appear to be a thoughtful film, like time warps and the like.  Alas, they don’t work.  Nobody cares whether what we’re seeing is a flashback or a dream or reality.  During the first hour I kept feeling like Elaine in the Seinfeld episode when she was watching The English Patient, and finally got so fed up she yelled out, “Get on with it and die so we can get out of here!” 


Irons gives his standardized sensitive man performance.  Kaas is so one-dimensional she sometimes appears catatonic.  The credits say that it’s her voice we hear when she’s singing, but she lip syncs to her own voice so poorly that I thought maybe it was old Marni Nixon’s voice. One thing that might hold your interest is trying to spot ‘60s femme fatale Claudia Cardinale.  She sure doesn’t look like she did in the ‘60s, but then who does?  Actually, Claudia is one person who gives a good performance. Other than that, while the first hour of this seems interminable, it picks up in the second hour, but you’re still wishing that they’d “get on with it."


Detracting further from this film is Michel Legrand’s dirge-like music.  I had admired some of Legrand’s music until I heard Kaas’s renditions. Unfortunately, Kaas warbles them endlessly.  Instead of being evocative, they’re mostly forgettable with pompous lyrics that contribute to the banality of the script. 


August 7, 2003


The End