Shall We Kiss?



PARIS -- Emmanuel Mouret is a young actor and director who seems from another age. He finds his inspiration in American screwball comedy as much as in Eric Rohmer's sentimental comedies or the masters of French drama from the 18th and 19th century (Marivaux and Musset, mainly). In five films, he has created a very consistent, admirable body of work. His latest, the funny and melancholic "Shall We Kiss?" could attract targeted audiences in Europe and possibly the Americas.

Two layers of narration interweave in "Shall We Kiss?": the encounter of Emilie (Julie Gayet) and Gabriel (Michael Cohen), who after an enjoyable evening asks her for a kiss, and the story that Emilie tells in flashbacks that demonstrates that it would be a bad idea. Kissing can sometimes have unpredictable consequences, as he will soon learn.

The flashbacks compose the major part of the film. They center on two characters: Nicolas (Emmanuel Mouret) and her longtime friend Judith (Virginie Ledoyen). Finding himself single, Nicolas dares to ask her a small favor: That she kisses him. Since they are friends, not lovers, they agree it shouldn't be a big deal. And as they find it quite enjoyable, they move to the next step: Why not sleep together? Two other characters are part of the delicate balance that starts collapsing before their eyes: Caline, Nicolas' former girlfriend, and especially Claudio, who is none other than Judith's wife.

Misunderstandings, new turns and stratagems mark the rest of this delightful divertimento, which navigates between burlesque (the character played by Mouret himself, with his funny walk and his constant amused look, is clearly inherited from Buster Keaton) and romantic comedy. The lovely Virginie Ledoyen brings a touch of melancholy to the atmosphere. Her character is sincerely torn between the genuine love for her husband and the growing desire she feels for her friend.

The other couple is also subject to a struggle between passion and reason. The delicate ending enhances the film's charm, all the more since Gayet and Cohen form an ideal cast to personify these modern yet timeless characters. The final twist of the film gives it a sort of moral touch, hence making the banter the audience witnessed a valuable lesson in life.

Moby Dick Films, Arte France, Canal +
Writer/director: Emmanuel Mouret
Producer: Frederic Niedermayer
Director of photography: Laurent Desmet
Production designer: David Faivre
Editor: Martial Salomon
Nicolas: Emmanuel Mouret
Judith: Virginie Ledoyen
Emilie: Julie Gayet
Gabriel: Michael Cohen
Claudio: Stefano Accorsi
Caline: Frederique Bel
Running time -- 100 minutes
No MPAA rating