Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Emmanuel Mouret's SHALL WE KISS? TrustMovies says yes -- absolutely!


SHALL WE KISS? (Un baiser s'il vous plaît), the star-bright French comedy from writer/director Emmanuel Mouret, made its American debut over a year ago at the FSLC's 2008 Rendezvous with French Cinema. I raved about it then in a review for GreenCine; seeing it again a year later, I find it not only holds up, it seems even richer, though a bit darker and more melancholy than I recall, while remaining exactly the kind of sparkling, funny, romantic comedy that only the French seem able to conjur. Go figure. Rather, go see.

Julie Gayet, left, with Michaël Cohen

Since viewing Shall We Kiss? a second time, I've been wracking my brain to recall another film that accomplishes something quite like that of M. Mouret's: offering up a morality tale that promises so much in the way of sex, sin, pleasure and infidelity but leaves us feeling as upright and moral as a New England puritan -- yet utterly satisfied in a manner we could never have predicted. There's Eric Rohmer, of course, whom this movie will bring to mind. But Mouret has managed something different, I think, by serving up his concerns in a mainstream/everyday manner, less cerebral and more hands-on (as the poster art, shown top, so vividly demonstrates).

Virginie Ledoyen, left, Emmanuel Mouret, center, and Frédérique Bel

In the film, a chance meeting leads to a possible kiss, and from there to a Scheherezade-type tale involving a quartet of characters plus the two who have just met. A simple kiss? That's the big concern? Yes, but you have no idea of the ramifications here. By film's end, Mouret will have you on emotional tenterhooks, not even certain which way you will want the situation to resolve. For an audience of relatively sophisticated viewers, I can't imagine a more satisfying romantic comedy than this. It forces you -- gently, sweetly, with humor and charm -- to consider possibilities that we humans often prefer to ignore.

Bel, left, with Mouret

The cast is made up of a group of attractive and gifted performers who handle the ins-and-outs of Mouret's writing and direction with style and grace: Virginie Ledoyen, Stefano Accorsi, Julie Gayet (I'm in love all over again: what an elegant and assured actress is Mme. Gayet. And her neck!) Frédérique Bel, Michaël Cohen and Mouret himself. They're all terrific -- and so specific in the details of their characters and intentions.

Writer/director Emmanuel Mouret, center

Two years ago at the FSLC's French Rendez-vous, a movie called Tell No One made its NYC debut. A relatively new (but quite smart) distribution company, Music Box Films, snapped it up for the American market -- and the rest is history. Music Box has done it again this year with Mouret's movie. I'll be very surprised should history not repeat itself.

Shall We Kiss?
opens Friday, March 27, in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, the Angelika Film Center and Beekman Cinema; and in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills. On April 4 its Southern California run will expand to the Monica 4-Plex, Santa Monica; the Playhouse 7 in Pasadena; and the Town Center in Encino; in the NYC area on April 10, it will expand to one of the most delightful theatre venues anywhere around New York City -- the Kew Gardens Cinemas, in Kew Gardens, Queens. Other cities nationwide will follow. Get ready for the word-of-mouth to start spreading.

2 comments:

yournewfan said...

Your excellent review prompts me not only to see "Shall We Kiss," but also to move it to the top of my list. What a great source TrustMovies is for weeding out what one wants to see and what to let go by the wayside. Hat's off to you!

James van Maanen, said...

Why, thank you, new fan. This is the kind of source I would like to become. If only there were more time to see more movies. And to blog about them (which generally takes at least as long as the viewing itself).