"Kiss" smacks of humor and insight
"Shall We Kiss?" is a delightful and deeply satisfying confection that exceeds the standard of contemporary French romantic comedy. It involves two couples (plus a couple more), who ponder a confounding question: Is a kiss really just a kiss?
Special to The Seattle Times
"Shall We Kiss?," with Virginie Ledoyen, Emmanuel Mouret, Julie Gayet, Michaël Cohen, Frédérique Bel, Stefano Accorsi. Written and directed by Mouret. 96 minutes. Not rated; suitable for mature audiences. In French, with English subtitles. Several theaters.
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The enigmatic question asked by the title of this delightful and deeply satisfying French confection is by no means rhetorical. It's a real conundrum for all of the well-heeled players who yearn for human connection, sexual fulfillment and existential truth by asking each other — sometimes in so many words — shall we kiss?
The fable begins in Nantes, where Émilie (Julie Gayet) has a breathtakingly believable chance meeting with Gabriel (Michaël Cohen). The evening that spontaneously unfolds between them is a bracketing device for a movie- within-the-movie that tells the cautionary tale of Judith (Virginie Ledoyen) and Nicolas (writer/director Emmanuel Mouret). In pondering the question of whether to seal their spontaneous encounter with a kiss, Émilie relates to Gabriel the saga of her friends back in Paris, who learned the hard way that a kiss is not always just a kiss.
Judith and Nicolas have been fast friends and confidants since high school. Their honesty and apparent lack of prurient mutual interest is put to a test when Nicolas asks Judith, who is happy in her marriage, to be a sexual surrogate after his latest breakup. This setup will spark a rueful and bemused connection for anyone who has had the thought, "Sure, we can do this and still be friends."
The execution of their first entanglement is a masterpiece of comic timing and naturalistic expression. Mouret is enchanting as a befuddled and slightly more appealing Woody Allen figure (as both actor and auteur), and Ledoyen is a lovely, soulful foil for his confused needs.
Another pair of fully imagined characters in the sexual hullabaloo are Judith's devoted husband, Claudio (Stefano Accorsi), and Nicolas' sort-of girlfriend Caline (Frédérique Bel).
The clean lines of composition and the warm tones of wardrobe and mood are just a few of the design nuances that enhance the pleasurable whole of "Shall We Kiss?"
Shall they kiss? I'll never tell.
Ted Fry: firstname.lastname@example.org
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