Shall We Kiss?

Strand releasing April 2009
French comedy

Is a kiss just a kiss? That's the central question in Emmanuel Mouret's “Shall We Kiss? A quintessentially romantic fable about intimacy and sex, which relies on characterization and dialogue and by American standards, is chatty and even verbose.  The French title, “Un Baiser s’il vous plait,” is more accurate, as it translates into “A Kiss, Please.”

“Shall We Kiss” premiered at the 2007 Venice Film Festival (in the Venice Days segment) and will be distributed by Strand Releasing in select cities in late March and April.


The tale begins in Nantes, where a chance encounter between a Parisian fabric designer named Emilie (Julie Gayet) and Gabriel (Michaël Cohen), a local art restorer, leads to a dinner date–and a kiss, or almost a kiss.  Why almost?  Because Emilie believes that a kiss on the lips does and should bear consequences.


The saga asks us to consider various degrees of intimacy.  Is a passionate kiss more personal than intercourse?  A prostitute ((Marie Madinier) in the film, who refuses to kiss in the mouth, certainly thinks so.

On the one hand, equally seduced by one another, and both otherwise committed, Emilie and Gabriel know that they will never see each other again.  He would like to kiss her, and so does she.   But what prevents them is a story a married woman and her best friend who were surprised by the effects of a seemingly innocent kiss.

To prove her point, Emilie tells a cautionary tale about how a similarly innocent gesture created major changes in the relationships of two couples. In doing so, she enters into the territory of master Eric Rohmer's moral fables, with a touch of vintage Hollywood screwball comedies of yesteryear


That story is played out in flashback, with Emmanuel Mouret as a lovelorn schoolteacher, Nicolas Gimas, who falls for his best female friend, Judith (Virginie Ledoyen), disregarding the fact she's happily married to Claudio (Stefano Accorsi) and he's dating the stewardess Caline (Frédérique Bel).

Mouret has previously directed “Change of Address,” about the interaction between a musician and his roommate, and “Liasons Lucie fair!” in which he also played the lead part.  But I think his new film is more charming and accessible to non-Galic audiences due to its amusing subject matter and universal dilemmas.


Obvsiously inspired by Rohmer and his impressive cycles of six contes moraux (morality fables)  beginning with “My Night at Maud's” and “Claire's Kneee,” and and later cycle of comedies and proverbs, Mouret doesn't have (at this phase) the smooth, suave, and sophiticated touch of the vet French master.  However, you could say that “Shall We Kiss?” is based on the same narrative strategy as Rohmer's: Intimate verbal exchanges between characters (usually of the opposite sex), whose intellectual inflexibility and value system are challenged by a tempting new set of physical circumstances, often resulting in contradictions and inconsistencies between what the characters say and what they actually feel and do.

 

Mature and intelligent viewers will savor this sharply written, quasi-philsophical French comedy of manners and morals, interspersed with strong elements of sophisticated and farcical humor, which derives directly from the situations in which the protagonists find themselves.

 

Cast

 

Virginie Ledoyen

Emmanuel Mouret

Julie Gayet

Michael Cohen

Stefano Accorsi

Frederique Bal

Marie Madinier.

Credits

 

A TFM Distribution release of a Moby Dick Films production, in association with Arte France Cinema. (International sales: TFI Intl., Issy-les-Moulineaux, France.)

Produced by Frederic Niedermayer.

Directed, written by Emmanuel Mouret.
Camera, Laurent Desmet.

Editor, Martial Salomon; art director, David Faivre.


Running time: 103 Minutes.