Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jerry's CineKids in Shall We Kiss

As Shall We Kiss opens, Couple A meets classic. Beautiful A-1 asks for directions to a cab stand. Handsome A-2 gives her a lift and almost cadges a goodbye/thank you/it won't mean anything but what might happen kiss. Instead A-1 begins a tale about the danger of a single kiss. The video jumps into A-1's story of Couple B - B-1, a beautiful lab scientist, and her platonic friend and long-time confidant, the handsome, but slightly geeky, math teacher B-2.

[Spoiler Alert - As Good As News is about to reveal much of the plot of this movie and its only funny line. Do not hesitate to read on, As Good As News is also about to recommend that you do not see Shall We Kiss. As Good As News will, however, continue to protect the identity of the cast.]

B-2 is suffering a mysterious malaise brought on by terminal horniness. He suggests, at tortured length, that he can think of only one cure, "but it's unthinkable, but it's..............." His pal B-1 invariably responds, "You can tell me, really, what is it..........................." This extended discussion produces the only discernible humor in a film billed as a comedy, B-2's surprising and well timed revelation that he has already tried a visit to a prostitute in his search for a cure.

The cure B-2 wants is a kiss from B-1. This leads, shockingly, to immediate sexual infatuation, made irresistible by the efforts of B-1 and B-2 to resist. Did we mention that B-1 is married? The tortured attempt at comedic dialog turns into a tortured attempt at comedic mutual seduction. B-1 and B-2 will try intercourse, just to establish the lack of attraction. Guess how that turns out. Finally, they must deal with the problem of B-1's husband. Their concern for his feelings leads to delay and an intricate plan, but the plotting makes the once likably romantic B-1 and B-2 seem sneaky and cowardly, while the delay exacerbates an already serious pacing problem.

A-1 finishes her story, alone in her hotel room with the hopeful, but not pushy, A-2. Both are committed to other partners (we take mercy on the reader by omitting A-2's story about couple C) and conflicted about how to end their night. As Good As News will not spoil this ending (since it is not completely predictable), but you may find yourself singing a few bars from the Casablanca theme.

The cast is engaging, for a while. The story is interesting, for a while. When he's not trying to be funny, the screenwriter/director (and co-star in the role of B-2) does a great job of omitting scenes that aren't needed to move the story forward. Sadly, predictability kills this video's pacing and comic potential, predictability aided and abetted by the impact of cultural differences and subtitles. They can translate the French dialog into English subtitles, but they can't make me like Jerry Lewis.

Woody Allen v. Jerry Lewis - Post-script - to those puzzled by the many comparisons elsewhere of Shall We Kiss to the comedy of Woody Allen; to those concerned that they might miss something memorable; Be not troubled. Yes, both feature a writer/director/star. Yes, this video, like Woody's comedies, spends much time talking about sex, with very little actual sex and much frustration. Woody's talk about sex is filled with witty dialog, most memorably, the one-line skewer of Woody's own potency, magnetism, etc. The theater erupts periodically with laughter. There are no lines in Shall We Kiss that cause the audience to laugh out loud. You will hear only the Silence of The Yawns.

Yes, this video, like Woody's comedies, blends farce with sophistication. Woody's farce is zany, unpredictable, coming out of left field, sometimes coming out of the visiting teams locker room. Think "Suck out the poison". Shall We Kiss surprises only in B-2's visit to the prostitute (a math tutor who requires her customers to shower before sex and prohibits kissing). Most of the farce in Shall We Kiss hammers away on a single note - we will try not to want sex while we have sex thus making us want sex more. The execution does not involve yelling, cowering or mewling, but the repetitious enlargement on the single theme owes far more to Jerry Lewis, another writer/director and star (sometimes starring in multiple roles), than Woody Allen, and the average ugly American audience (moi included) will spend little time laughing and much time shaking heads at the exit door while grumbling "That was very French."

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