Monday, June 19, 2006

The Lake House: A kiss ain't just a kiss, regardless of where you steal it from

It has been 12 full years since Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves drove (and flew) a bus to superstardom, and they haven't worked together since. But they attended the Oscars "together" in March, and their "togetherness" on the red carpet reminded us of their excellent chemistry on Bus 2525, and how strangely fulfilling it was to see them finally make out on a rolling wooden board at LAX, and then make out again after a thunderous subway crash a short time later. They were young and supple and focused and available. Now if only they'd make another film so we could once again revel in --

Behold: The Lake House, a romantic comedy about two people (a doctor and a quasi-architect) who are separated by two years but can communicate instantly via a magic mailbox. [SPOILERS AHEAD.] I accept that premise at face value. I love movies that include time travel/manipulation. I attended a showing yesterday, ready to be charmed.

I was. Somewhat. Until, that is, they actually meet (don't yell at me -- you knew they were going to meet). They stride toward each other, gaze, and kiss. And kiss awkwardly. Like, little pecks and bites -- sometimes on the lips, sometimes on the cheek or chin. None of that erotic, smooth, velvety, tongue-y, horizontal smooching at the end of Speed. At the end of The Lake House, it was like watching two narcotized woodpeckers bob languidly against each other's beaks: uncomfortable, uneven, stilted. In short, anticlimactic and unfulfilling.

Pity, I thought then. I had been confused by the mechanics of space-time in the movie's last 10 minutes, but had nevertheless enjoyed much of it; Sandy and Keanu are still likeable, attractive and capable of helping us tolerate and even pardon a movie's absurdities. Then why the ugly snogging? Had 12 years of abstinence disrupted their kissing chemistry? Surely there was a better explanation...

Then, this morning, the eureka: Clips of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman's famous kiss in Notorious are played multiple times (by happenstance) throughout The Lake House. One of Sandy's patients watches it in a hospital room; Sandy herself views it at home later. When Notorious was made in 1946, the motion picture production code forbade liplocks over three seconds long. So Hitchcock, ever the clever cad, directed Grant and Bergman to interrupt their kissing at least every three seconds. He kept the camera on them for almost three minutes as they smacked, released, and smacked again. It was, in essence, a multi-minute kiss that was technically permissable by code.

My theory: Agresti directed Sandy and Keanu to emulate that kiss, thereby bringing one of The Lake House's visual themes full circle. Nevermind that The Lake House finds no other inspiration in Notorious besides the kiss, or that the kiss has the opposite effect in 2006 as it did in 1946. Film directors love their paeans, though, even when they make absolutely no sense.

9 comments:

is that so wrong? said...

Interesting theory with the kissing and all.... definitely sound. But is the movie worth seeing? You sound lukewarm.

J.J. said...

Worth seeing? Not really. If you're looking for a bit of whimsy, then do. If not, don't.

Middento said...

Agresti = YUCK. I hated Valentín, even if I was paid to lead a discussion about its merits.

But here's the real question: how was my girl Shohreh?

Write Or said...

Do you think Keanu needs kissing practice? Where do I sign up to help?

I prefer watching him kiss--even doing so poorly--to listening to him talk. It always sounds like he's faking a deep voice.

J.J. said...

Agresti actually displays a light, sensitive touch in The Lake House. But Valetin is unseen by me, so I cannot comment on the measure of his talent(lessness).

It was wonderful to see Shohreh. Her role is perfunctory, but she is intriguing anyway and actually gets a laugh. I think her next project should involve some heavy slapstick. I would kill to see her and Ben Kingsley in some sort of farce -- a prequel, perhaps, to House of Sand and Fog? Let's call it "House of Pies and Pratfalls: Before That Unfortunate Business with the Crazy Lady."

"Behrani...lemon custard in nose..."

J.J. said...

@ write or: That's a terrific way to put it. Keanu does sound like he's trying to fake a deep voice. Hmm. Whoa. But does he need kissing practice? No. See "Speed." He just needs better kissing direction.

is that so wrong? said...

There needs to be more Shohreh in film.... and not one minute of screentime in X3. She's got another Oscar nom in her, let's wait.

Jamy said...

The reason the kissing scene in Notorious worked so well is that Grant and Bergman talked inbetween each of their baby kisses. When SB & KR kiss, there is complete silence and a lot of deep staring. It is odd. They just seem confused--not happy! Too bad, because the movie was sweet (not good) and watchable otherwise--though they lost me in the last couple of minutes. The logic worked pretty well otherwise.

J.J. said...

My sentiments exactly.