Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Shall we kiss?

A woman doesn't want to kiss at the end of a casual dinner with a complete stranger. So what?

In NZ that is probably considered quite normal, but in France it is something to make a film about. So Emilie spends an hour and half explaining the dangers of a kiss to Gabriel. Luckily for us she does it with an entertaining story about best friends and confidants: Judith and Nicolas. Emilie hastily explains that she is not Judith, just another friend of hers.

Judith is happily married whereas Nicolas confesses that he feels starved of physical female affection since he and his previous girlfriend broke up. In response to Judith's initial suggestion he claims that he can't start a new relationship while in his current condition. To her more round about suggestion that he visit a prostitute, he confesses that he tried that earlier in the day but she didn't allow kissing. He wants the package deal: sex and kissing to cure him, so that he can go out and get a girlfriend. Finally he gets to the point: will Judith, as his best friend, help him out?

The scenes that follow are the comic high point of the film and reactions of the women in the audience at the Embassy show the director hit just the right note. I'm sure his directions to the actors were "forget you are French, pretend you are British".

Of course the story of Judith and Nicolas couldn't end there. There has to be consequences. Which eventually brings Emilie to the point of her story.

The classic romance of the charming Emilie and suave Gabriel (who can ignore their absent partners for an evening) contrasts with the increasingly farcical story of Judith and Nicolas. The film cuts backwards and forwards between the romantic present and the farce of the inner story as if to emphasis the difference between perfection of romance and messiness of reality.

Writer and director Emmanuel Mouret plays the buttoned up, neurotic Nicolas in a role which is the corner stone performance in the film, against which Virginie Ledoyen plays the desirable but uptight best friend Judith with an admirably straight bat. The sound track includes some of the best known bits of Tchaikovsky's and Schubert's music. The way they have been selected to underlie the mood of each scene, fits well with this story within a story.

Emilie starts telling the story in the car park, ending it in her hotel room with Gabriel, where she still has to face the dilemma of a goodbye kiss. Was she really trying to convince him of the dangers of kissing or was it all foreplay to build the potential kiss into an event to remember?

Ian's rating 4/5

Anne's rating 3/5

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