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And Now Ladies & Gentlemen Reviews

Nearly 40 years after A MAN AND A WOMAN brought them international acclaim, director Claude Lelouch and his long-time collaborator, writer Pierre Uytterhoeven, continue to make the kind of film they make best: sleekly contrived romantic dramas in which dialogue often takes a back seat to lush musical interludes. Expert English thief Valentin Valentin (Jeremy Irons) has two loves: exquisite jewels and racing yachts. Armed with little more than a gun and an ingenious disguise, Valentin simply walks into Europe's finest jewelry shops and walks out with their finest pieces. But Valentin is also a romantic with two dreams: to one day repay the people he's robbed, and to escape his life by sailing around the world. He buys a world-class sloop and prepares to set sail on a four-month voyage, but his wife, Francoise (Allesandra Martines), a former Bulgari sales associate he once snatched along with a Czarina's necklace, is worried. Valentin has been suffering memory lapses, bizarre hallucinations and sudden blackouts. Meanwhile, in Paris, smoky voiced chanteuse Jane (Patricia Kaas), who's just lost her lover to her best friend, is suffering similar symptoms. Traffic cops pull her over after finding her driving in circles, and she's begun blanking out during performances. Jane takes a job performing at a deluxe hotel in Fez, where she meets Valentin, whose yacht rammed a fishing boat off the coast of Morocco. Valentin has come to Fez to see a doctor — the very same doctor treating Jane, it turns out — but his stay is complicated by a late-night robbery: A fabulously wealthy contessa (Claudia Cardinale) has lost her jewels to a cat burglar. Valentin becomes a suspect in the police investigation, but as his condition worsens and his relationship with Jane concurrently deepens, Valentin himself can't be sure he isn't the thief they're persuing. When characters aren't quoting Alfred de Musset, they're speaking in aphorisms of their own, and the dialogue is stylized and stilted. Happily, Kaas, one of France's most popular jazz singers, has a sensuous, sonorous voice, and Lelouch uses it as often as possible; in many ways, the film is a musical. Those harboring fond recollections of A MAN AND A WOMAN — the scene in which Jane trills its unforgettable theme song will certainly jog memories — will no doubt be thrilled.