Shall We Kiss?
Dir: Emmanuel Mouret
Music Box Films
Somehow Shall We Kiss?, the latest from French director/actor Emmanuel Mouret, has been tagged as a Woody Allen/Eric Rohmer mash-up before even hitting the cinemas. While it is true that the film deals with the romantic neuroticisms of attractive thirtysomethings that seem to have little else to do but talk about sex and the nature of love, Shall We Kiss? lacks the deeper understanding of human nature that is rife in a Rohmer film and the uncomfortable laughs Allen provides in his twitchy meditations on the human sexual drive.
The film begins when an impromptu meeting in Nantes between a pair of strangers is halted when the man goes in for a kiss. Though the woman wants to kiss the man, a “sad story” prevents her from following through. But here is where Mouret stumbles; rather than use these characters as the main thrust of the movie, he instead uses this rendezvous as a framing device and leads us into the story of Judith (Virginie Ledoyen) and Nicolas (Mouret), friends who have maintained a platonic relationship for many, many years. Judith is happily married to Claudio (Stefano Accorsi), a rich chemist, but when the perpetually unsatisfied Nicolas comes to her with a need for “physical affection,” the two fall into an awkward relationship that begins with sex and propels towards love.
Perhaps the Allen/Rohmer comparison is born from the amount of talk Nicolas and Judith engage in as they try to rationalize their burgeoning romance. Because they sure talk a lot, even as they undress one another. Every move is evaluated. Mouret makes the case that the brain and the heart are not intrinsically linked. Both Nicolas and Judith know they should not fall in love, but something organically keeps them coming back for me.
But where does it all lead? True, not all Allen movies are a success and Rohmer is not universally regarded, but Shall We Kiss? feels like little more than an entertaining confection that does not reveal any greater truths about human nature. Yeah, we can’t help who enamors us and the convention of marriage may be staid, but what’s new about those ideas? It is hard to fall for Judith and Nicolas, two narcissistic motor-mouths possessed more by their own existential love crisis than anything else. True, there is a humorous vignette when Nicolas attempts to visit a prostitute to assuage his lack of physical affection, but there is little else to dub this film a comedy. Perhaps if Mouret had made his characters more believable, more grounded in reality it would add gravitas to a film that is easily digested and does not linger like that special kiss should.
by David Harris