Movie Review: Shall We Kiss?
By Michael Phillips, Tribune Movie Critic
"The body is unpredictable," says the woman to the man in the French comedy "Shall We Kiss?" That just about covers the film's key elements. Woman. Man. French. Smooch.
Don't expect a bawdy romp, however. The suppressed sensuality in this latest from writer-director Emmanuel Mouret is everywhere and nowhere, which is to say it informs each moment, but discreetly. The film's very slight (pick your comparison: bonbon, souffle, sorbet), but it has a way of lingering a while after you see it.
The acting's smooth and naturalistic - no high-pitched farce for this ensemble. This isn't "Boeing Boeing," even though the secondary character roster does include a flight attendant.
In the town of Nantes, a chance meeting between picture framer Gabriel (Michael Cohen) and visiting fabric designer Emilie (Julie Gayet) leads to dinner and then the prospect of "a kiss of no consequence." Emilie hesitates, and relays by way of explanation an elaborate cautionary tale about her married friend Judith (Virginie Ledoyen), who embarks on a clinically planned and executed affair with her longtime male friend, Nicolas (Mouret). Things turn unexpectedly fraught, and although the complications suggest high-energy antics, the tone of the picture is cool, the emotions kept under elegant wraps.
I like this film, almost in spite of what it's trying to do. The archness is extreme, almost suffocating, and Mouret's acting lacks wit (especially compared with Cohen, whose clean-lined finesse is a model of its kind). But Ledoyen in particular humanizes the story-within-a-story strategy. Her character's sly verbal hesitations become part of a mutual seduction, more theoretical than practical, but enticing nonetheless.
Not much happens in "Shall We Kiss?" - the latest import picked up for U.S. distribution by Chicago-based Music Box Films - but what's there, as Tracy said about Hepburn, is "cherce."
No MPAA rating (some sexual content).
Running time: 1:42.
Featuring: Virginie Ledoyen (Judith); Emmanuel Mouret (Nicolas); Julie Gayet (Emilie); Michael Cohen (Gabriel).
Written and directed by Emmanuel Mouret; produced by Frederic Niedermayer. A Music Box Films release. In French with English subtitles.