Un Baiser s'il vous plaît (Shall We Kiss?) Reviews
While billed as a romantic comedy - and there are certainly bits that attempt to imitate Woody Allen's best in manipulative and situational absurdity - there are only a few laugh-out-loud moments. This stems from the simple fact that these characters are remarkably staid and uninteresting -- or at least portrayed by actors who fail to give them much emotional life and presented by a director who shoots almost the whole film in motionless two-shots; the cinematography almost hearkens back to the early days of film when they thought that because the best seat in a theater was front and center, the camera shouldn't move from that position.
What is more, we need someone - the actors, director, writer, craft service guy - to make a decision about whether Nicolas's original proposition is a crafty manipulation in order to fuck Judith or should we take him at his word that he simply, honestly needs physical affection and his best friend is the most logical choice. Is this a mature but ill-advised request or a clever ploy? A point so instrumental to the plot shouldn't be so mysterious.
When we get to act two, the film's Woody Allen homages come to the fore. Now the couple has to manipulate Judith's husband to falling for another woman. But whereas Allen has a clear point about the monotony of monogamy and the cruelty/desperation (depending on the film) of humans in love, I don't see any such statement here. Rather, it seems like they're attempting to be logical and kind, but how is it that they fail to recognize the clear ethical dilemma in which they find themselves.
Overall, Shall We Kiss is a structural and thematic mess with doses of charm too rare to ignore the film's flaws.
"Shall We Kiss?" is a surprisingly gentle and droll comedy of manners that almost gets tripped up by a plot trap but recovers nicely. Usually, I have a problem with movies this talky, but here it feels completely natural, as a lot of it is delivered in an awkward fashion that captures the characters' feelings well with them being terrified to take the next step, symbolized by a kiss. But for men and women who are platonic friends, things may be perfect as they are. For Judith and Nicolas, the tragedy may come from them not taking action long ago when there were less complications.
One of the best things about the film is its structure. Romantic comedy, yes by content, but not by the tired structure we?re used to. It cleverly uses a framing device/story-within-a-story to focus on the story of two ?best friends?, one married and the other one in and out of relationships. When the relationship moves to non-platonic, trouble spreads. The results forms the framing storyline.
The timing is awesome and the camera mise en scene is exquisite. For example, there?s an awesome shot of the two lovers sitting in the edge of the bed with their backs to the camera al la Godard for a long part of the conversation where we don?t see their faces. Then they flop back on the bed and the camera tilts down to finally reveal their faces. The whole movie is like that. Your eye is carefully directed.
It?s a French romantic comedy but its subtle approach pays off much bigger than the slapstick approach.
The sad problem for me is that Emmanuel Mouret works are not well distributed. Shall We Kiss? and Change of Address have no NTSC DVD release yet? although Shall We Kiss is scheduled in February 2010 and available now in an Australian PAL version.