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Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Shall We Kiss? (France, dir. Emmanuel Mouret)

This gentle romantic comedy starts off as if it were a simple cream puff, but the closer you get to the center, the more you realize there is some nourishment inside. Or, at the very least, someone added some good liquor to that cream before they whipped it.

Emilie (Julie Gayet) and Gabriel (Michaël Cohen) meet by chance when she is on a business trip, and after a nice evening together, Gabriel proposes "an inconsequential kiss." Emilie refuses, alleging that there is no such thing, and as an offer of proof, she extends their evening with a story of two friends who found this out the hard way. The lovely Judith (Virginie Ledoyen, 8 Women) and Nicolas (Emmanuel Mouret, who also wrote and directed) have been the closest of friends since high school. After a particularly painful break-up, Nicolas asks Judith for some love and affection to fill the void left by his ex. Despite being married, Judith obliges him, thinking it a one-time thing, but both end up enjoying it more than they meant to and further efforts to disentangle themselves from this tryst only leads to them falling in love. Well, first, they discuss what love means, and then they realize they are in it. This pair discusses everything in a calm, distracted, almost academic manner, and yet always end up right where they say they won't be. With this simple device, Mouret lays on the wit while also proving his point that no matter how much the head tries to lead the way, the body has more sway.

The deeper that Nicolas and Judith go, the more serious the emotions, but the more broad the comedy. They hatch a plot to lure Judith's husband (Stefano Accorsi) into his own affair, thus freeing him to love someone else, but the irony is that their Three's Company-scheme only ends up forcing the cuckold to be the adult in this situation. So, too, must Emilie and Gabriel try to be adults. They are both in long-term relationships, but the storytelling on both sides--Gabriel also shares the tale of how he met his girlfriend--has lured them into the same trap, stoking the fires of romance and laying temptation at their feet. (Though, some may argue Gabriel never stops thinking with his little head, rather than the big one, and he is lust where Emilie's desire is something else.) In the end, Mouret lets the different choices the two couples make reverberate without drawing comparisons for the viewer; rather, it's the kind of ripples that these decisions cause in all of their lives that he also wants to send out beyond the edges of the movie screen, and to be effective, they must allowed to hit their targets all on their own.

Shall We Kiss? plays on 2/12 and 2/14. - PIFF's website at the NW Film Center

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All text (c) 2009 Jamie S. Rich

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