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Tell and Kiss

MOVIE REVIEW
Shall We Kiss? (2007)

Shallwekiss_4
Pascal Chantier/Music Box Films

“Shall We Kiss?” examines sex as a social contract and not an act between those in love, at least for awhile. Can two people have a meaningless kiss? Depending on how neurotic the two people, yes and no. With a plot that involves characters’ neuroses and their romantic inklings, “Shall We Kiss?” has all the markings of a Woody Allen film.

The film – written, directed and starring Emmanuel Mouret – begins with a “meet-cute” and then transitions into another story altogether unrelated but no less influential. Èmilie (Julie Gayet) needs a ride back to her hotel, and Gabriel (Michaël Cohen) is only too happy to assist. The drive turns into dinner and a romantic evening. At the end of the night, Gabriel wants to kiss Èmilie but she recoils, citing a story about how a kiss is never meaningless.

This new storyline with Judith (Viginie Ledoyen) and Nicolas (Emmanuel Mouret) comprises most of the screen time. Nicolas is in a rut sexually. He has had recent problems meeting girls and is convinced that all he needs is a sexual experience to get his groove back. Nicolas enlists his best friend Judith, who is romantically involved with another man, as his platonic sexual jump start. With some trepidation, Judith agrees to Nicolas’s terms.

Nicolas is cautious in pushing the boundaries with Judith, querying her about every step of the process. “Can I touch your breast?” “Can I kiss you?” “On the neck?” This is call-and-response sex. In terms of draining the emotion out of the situation, Judith and Nicolas are successful. It is this scene that is the most memorable of the film. Like a classic Woody Allen film, a sex scene is perhaps filled with more dialogue than any other. The scene is awkward, but draws wry smiles as well.

However, the film only goes downhill from here. “Shall We Kiss?” dissolves into a typical adulterous story. Nicolas and Judith end up in an affair from which they cannot escape. Doubling the problem that Judith and Nicolas’s story has gone sour, is that we have lost the initial spark of Èmilie and Gabriel. Mr. Mouret returns to the original plotline only sparingly, and it is not enough.

While Judith and Nicolas reside in an up-front relationship where they tell each other everything and are often overly analytical, Gabriel and Èmilie have better chemistry. Mr. Mouret’s dialogue is always upbeat and often feels like a dance, with both characters quickly responding back and forth. There is a moment early in the film, where Gabriel wants to ask Èmilie to dinner but cannot find the words. The film cuts in the middle of his word fumbling to their conversation over dinner. This is efficient filmmaking on Mr. Mouret’s part, and is fairly indicative of the rest of the film. With “Shall We Kiss,” Mr. Mouret’s only misstep is losing the whimsical, playful yet sturdy flirtation in favor of the adulterous route – not unlike another Woody Allen film, “Match Point.”

SHALL WE KISS?

Opens on March 27 in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Emmanuel Mouret; director of photography, Laurent Desmet; edited by Martial Salomon; art director, David Faivre; produced by Frédéric Niedermayer; released by Music Box Films. In French, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Virginie Ledoyen (Judith), Emmanuel Mouret (Nicolas), Julie Gayet (Émilie), Michaël Cohen (Gabriel), Frédérique Bel (Caline) and Stefano Accorsi (Claudio).

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