Ladies and gentlemen, Claude Lelouch gives you a love story. Or, should that
be a double love story? Or, a disease of the month story? Or, the
fitful adventures of a master thief? Or, the strange dreams of a ravishing
lounge singer? In that it's all of the above, one will readily see that the
Lelouch touch is neither straightforward nor simple. This unique love
adventure has so many character nuances and plot twists it's almost certain
to keep you engaged which, of course, is the point.
Valentin Valentin (Jeremy Irons) is no common thief. His is the realm of
sophisticated taste and the clever ploy, abetted by disguise and guided by a
preference for fine gems. His first heist caper is to pretend to a
jewelry store owner that he's a detective heading up an operation to catch a
thief who is about to rob the store. Since the police team needs to
apprehend him with the loot, the owner is to cooperate with the robber.
Anxious to do so, the owner and his assistant all but welcomes Valentin
himself as he effortlessly absconds with some fine jewels. A bit
far-fetched? Just wait.
As though to regale us with an altogether different kind of entertainment,
singer Jane Lester (the French sensation Patricia Kaas) performs a jazzy
lounge duet with her rival in a contested affair with the trumpet player
(Samuel Labarthe). Losing the love war, she packs up for distant parts,
landing in Morocco where she picks up a gig singing at her hotel for the
patrons. Her sultry shadings of vocal art are those of a major talent in
French and English song styling. But memory lapses begin to intrude on her
work and she seeks out a local doctor.
Researching his next score for a famous necklace, Valentin meets Francoise
(Alessandra Martines), a greater catch than the diamonds. Then things start
to go wrong for him. There's an affliction in the air. Valentin has
blackouts. In a literal case of changing course, he buys a racing yacht from
David (Yvan Attal), arranges for David and Francoise to get together, and
takes off on a round the world cruise. But his affliction strikes him down
off Morocco and he winds up seeking cat scans from the same doctor as Jane
If you're thinking this is straining coincidence, assume that it plays better
than it reads.
Director Lelouch introduces to the audiences of America not one, but two
rather illustrious and accomplished personalities from French cinema and
stage. Alessandra Martines, for long an important presence in French cinema,
devastates with sensuous beauty and an intriguing personality. A prize.
But Lelouch isn't done with casting originality. In her first theatrical
film, husky-voiced no-nonsense chanteuse
Patricia Kaas makes possible the major story element of a lounge singer on a
talent level that has bewitched French audiences for at least 16 years and 10
highly appreciated CD albums. Her soft but determined stage presence
translates to the screen with confident honesty. Her singing within the
context of the narrative might make a jazz lover out of you. The low timbre
of her vocals will bring to mind Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf, but she's
her own unique stylist who, with her commanding presence here, will bring
attention to a new star for the broader musical and film scene.
If anyone is still doubting Mr. Lelouch's inventiveness in casting, he goes
on to create the role of very rich Madame Falconnetti, a spirited dowager
cheating on her CEO husband with every handsome bartender or Lothario that
crosses her path. A stereotype if ever there was one, yet actress Claudia
Cardinale distinguishes the role with smashing singularity.
Claude Lelouch has bettered his prior work in a day when he's no longer the
household name in America that he was during the sixties ("A Man and a
Woman", 1966). He developed his screenplay with co-writer Pierre Leroux and,
demonstrates his technical skills on the visual side with cinematographer
This worthy import may attest to the revolutionary concept of improvement
with age. It seems to be working that way for a filmmaker whose stock in
trade is exploring complex romantic involvement in a complex cinematic
This is a movie you drift with, and get enveloped in its unique atmosphere of
intelligence, adventure and talent. If you dig jazz or romance, you should
see it. If you dig both, it would be a tragedy to miss.
~~ Jules Brenner