Sunday, March 07, 2010

Movie Log: Shall We Kiss?, Moliere

Shall We Kiss? was a fun French movie -- it's, I suppose, a romantic drama, if that makes any sense -- that The Wife and I saw a couple of weeks ago. It has an interestingly complicated structure, in which most of the movie is a flashback story told by a woman to a man in the frame story -- though there's also a secondary flashback story that he tells her along the way. And it's all about the pitfalls of romantic/sexual attraction -- what can happen when you agree to give someone one little kiss, which neither of you intends to mean anything. Like so many European movies, it takes a while to get going, not dropping into the flashback for several minutes. There's also a deliberately awkward sex scene (memorialized on the cover to the left) within that flashback that leads to some less awkward sex later on. (There's not much nudity, though, for viewers who are seeking or avoiding that -- and the sexiest things that happen in Shall We Kiss? are, naturally, kisses.) As I said, we liked it a lot, so I'm not going to pick it apart; it was more thoughtful than I expected, and less stereotypically French -- more concerned with the emotional aftermath of events -- than I expected. Definitely worth a look for couples, I'd think.

And, because we liked Shall We Kiss?, and because The Wife is always a sucker for period movies, we also got to Moliere recently. Moliere is a more traditional movie; it's the kind of bio-pic that explains that Writer X wrote Work Y because Experience Z -- which is almost entirely identical to the plot of that work -- happened just prior to writing that work. (See Becoming Jane or Shakespeare in Love or Bright Star or a dozen others.) Luckily, I know vastly less about Moliere's plays than I do about any of the other authors I just alluded to, so Moliere didn't annoy me in any of the ways it could have. It also has a one-big-flashback structure, with a slight frame story set in 1658 and the vast bulk of the movie taking place thirteen years earlier, with the embryonic playwright Moliere (aka Jean-Baptiste Poquelin) taking an odd job for a rich man to get himself out of debtor's prison.

The rich man -- one M. Jourdain, a silly dilettante who neglects his gorgeous wife, Elmire -- wants Moliere to help him seduce a gorgeous young widow, and so introduces Moliere to his household as a priest (called M. Tartuffe, in another dig to the ribs) who will tutor the younger of his two daughters. Moliere of course falls for Elmire, and of course eventually wins her. Along the way, Jourdain's older daughter is caught up in marriage complications of her own -- but, in the end, Moliere leaves the household, alone, to return to the world of acting. And there is, I'm afraid, a scene at the very end where Moliere is watching his troupe in 1658 perform a play based very closely on his Jourdain experience, to howls of laughter from the watching aristocrats.

I suspect one's enjoyment of Moliere will depend heavily on two factors: first, how well the viewer knows the works of Moliere to begin with, and, second, how annoyed that viewer is by the "it was all based on real life!" blather that these bio-pics always spew. If one or both of those levels is low, then Moliere should be quite enjoyable -- I liked it a lot myself, though I do admit that I probably would have hated it if I were a real Moliere aficionado.

No comments:

Post a Comment