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Film Review: Janis et John (2003)

Janis et John is a film I had been meaning to watch for a while. It has cult status in France and beyond and is supposed to be pretty cool, or so I had heard. But oh such disappointment! Watching this tripe just goes to show you really shouldn't believe the hype. It all starts off fairly promisingly - a series of fast zoom introductions to the main characters of the film to a back track of The Who's 'I Won't Get Fooled Again.' Alas, this snappy sequence proves to be the film's zenith. Talk about peaking early . . . Insurance broker Pablo Sterni (Sergi Lopez) decides one day to concoct a scam. Instead of creating a policy for the prized classic car owned by M. Cannon (Jean-Louis Trintignant) he pockets the premium himself, because it's what everyone else does in his office apparently. The elderly Cannon does not drive his prized possession, but rather worships it. Sterni reckons he's on to a winner. Meanwhile Sterni has a dull wife and eight-and-a-half year old son in what appears to be a humdrum suburban life. When a thief steals and crashes vintage car, dodgy Sterni is in trouble with a big T. "Luckily I'm insured," says Cannon. Little does he know. Not sure what kind of garage this is, but the repair bill of 500,000 francs sounds a little steep. Anyway, Sterni hatches a plot. It transpires he has a long lost cousin who has just inherited loads of cash and who once upon a time in 1973 met (or thought he met) John Lennon and Janis Joplin in a nightclub toilet. Still with it? It gets better. "We'll be back," the pop superstars informed the cousin who had just dropped an acid tab, the effects of which he never quite recovered from. However, he recovered enough to open his very own Janis and John shop selling all things Lennon and Joplin . . . In order to relieve cousin of his inheritance and pay off M. Cannon, Sterni decides to re-incarnate Lennon and Joplin, to er, ask cousin for the cash. Brilliant! (Cousin is still waiting for the dead duo to return - he's been tripping since 1973 you see). By now the film has descended into total farce, albeit inadvertently. It's as if the scriptwriter is just making it up as he goes along. Pity the poor actors all of whom look as if they can't quite believe what they are being asked to portray - and it shows, it really shows. And so it drags on. Sterni engages an actor to play Lennon (Francois Cluzet) and persuades his wife to impersonate Joplin. And yes, you've guessed it cousin really does fall for it. He thinks the dead duo have come back to visit him! And the shy, retiring Madame Sterni (Marie Trintignant) goes the whole hog by transforming into drugged out 1970s hippy chick! By the time the twist arrives, it's hard to care even a tiny little bit about any of these characters: Cannon crashed the car himself - a cry for help. For some reason or other he just wanted to be Sterni's friend. All's well that ends well.

Towards the end the scriptwriter suddenly remembers about the Sterni's eight-year-old son - in case you'd forgotten about him. Nice. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. There must be something positive to say about this God awful mess of a film, but what? Think, think, think . . . oh yes, Cluzet's nostrils do look quite similar to those of John Lennon. And that's about it really. Sometimes after seeing a film this bad one needs to smoke a cigarette on a verandah, to cool off. As I do not have a verandah nor do I smoke, I had to be content with thrashing listessly around in bed lamenting the 90 minutes of precious life I had squandered away on this. Grrrr! 1/10 (For Cluzet's nostrils)