Un Baiser S’il Vous Plaît (Shall We Kiss?)
Queued Up is a new Donnybrook column reviewing everything that one man watches on his Netflix Instant Queue. Ever.
Shall We Kiss?
2007 | 96 minutes | French (English subtitles)
The French may not have invented romance but they have never stopped pretending that they did. From the Eiffel’s twinkling lights to the ruddy beauty of its provincial towns, the whole of the country and its inhabitants seem eternally sprinkled with the pixie dust of l’amour.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the nation’s rich cinematic history. France’s Nordic neighbors were busying themselves by being icily distant, the Italians were ruminating on the gritty reality of modern life, Americans were bowling themselves over with flowery melodrama, and their compatriots to the far east were constructing dense, glacial mythological microcosms…
But what were the French up to? Being sexy, of course, and having fun riffing on the filmic trends around them like students opening up to the realization that they were, in fact, smarter than their teachers.
All of this is a backwards way of getting at Un Baiser S’il Vous Plaît, a 2007 movie written and directed by Emmanuel Mouret whose title (literally “A Kiss, If You Please”) is rendered less playful and more overwrought in its Anglicized translation. Shall We Kiss? adopts the classic story-within-a-story conceit on its way to showing that “romantic comedies” can actually be both things–romantic and comedic–without devolving into a goofy-smiled cop-out.
Virginie Ledoyen, an actress whose looks and demeanor are blessed with a reflexive, disarming charm, plays the part of Judith while Mouret himself takes the role of her best friend Nicolas. It seems a foregone conclusion that their relationship will ring the doorbell of that much debated puzzle: can heterosexuals of the opposite sex simply remain besties or does emotional intimacy inexorably push hearts and bodies together?
There isn’t much surprise to the way the film initially answers this question, but it’s where things go from there that makes Shall We Kiss? well worth one hundred minutes of your time. There is deceit, guilt, conspiracy, recriminations, remorse, love, and loss–all of the emotions you would expect to be visited given the plot. However, where an American rom-com would deliver a glossy, tear-jerking ending, Mouret concludes his piece on a more complicated, satisfying note.
It may not be the freeze-frame at the end of The 400 Blows, but it is a thoughtful ending to a film that infuses a philosophical look at relationships with wit, poignancy, and one of the most hilariously stilted sexual encounters ever put to film.
Watch the trailer for Un Baiser S’il Vous Plaît (Shall We Kiss?):