The possible implications of an innocent kiss hover like a dark cloud over the almost perfect evening out between an attractive, out-of-town textile designer, Émilie (Julie Gayet) and good Samaritan Gabriel (Michaël Cohen) in Emmanuel Mouret’s refined and effervescent comedy of manners, Shall We Kiss? (Un baiser s’il vous plaît). Unfolding as a story within a story as Émilie attempts to explain her insistence against capping off their casual dinner date with an almost obligatory goodbye kiss that, with both parties involved in committed relationships and Émilie on the last day of her business trip before heading home the next morning, would seem an innocuous enough request, she recounts the emotionally prickly tale of another pair of erstwhile innocent kissers, Judith (Virginie Ledoyen) and Nicolas (Emmanuel Mouret) whose polite gestures and good intentions lead to unexpected catastrophe. At the heart of the story is the ever-analytical and pragmatic Judith, a laboratory researcher who has been happily married to pharmacist Claudio (Stefano Accorsi) for several years. Always eager to lend a sympathetic ear to her best friend Nicolas who has fallen into an inextricable romantic slump after having ended a long-term relationship with a mutual friend, Judith has become a close confidante to Nicolas’s neurotic tales of self-defeating, frustrated intimacy – fearful of returning to the dating scene without appearing too desperate after having been celibate for so long, yet unable to summarily consummate the physical act and snap his dry spell by hiring a prostitute when she prevents him from kissing her as a prelude to their mechanical coupling. As a remedy to the impasse, Judith suggests that she serve as Nicolas’s surrogate, rationalizing that their friendship would fill the semblance of emotional connection that he seeks to be able to consummate an act of intimacy. However, when Judith’s selfless act of intervention proves to be less than resolved despite Nicolas’s newfound relationship with a sexy fight attendant, Câline (Fréderique Bel), the two are forced to confront the Pandora’s box of confused emotions and irrationality that their meaningless encounter has caused. Favorably evoking Woody Allen’s witty, self-deprecating humor combined coupled with the clinical observations of human interaction (and dysfunction) inherent in Eric Rohmer’s cinema, Shall We Kiss, nevertheless, bears the imprint of Mouret’s characteristic, tightly woven construction – a subtle choreography of words, scenarios, elisions, and ambience that, in turn, reflect the ephemeral alchemy of human connection and desire.
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