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The Kiss is a film which only really seems to have been screened at the Boston Film Festival 2003 and released directly to video everywhere else. According to some sources, the script was a work of art and could have made a wonderful movie. The same sources also say that there are two cuts of the film. The first cut only seems to have been seen by a few people, with a second cut being the one released. Word of mouth suggests that this second cut (which presumably is the one released here in Australia) is a real mess compared to the first cut. The first cut apparently did the script justice, while the second had new scenes, changed scenes and different music as well as being structured differently.

Kiss, The
Cara Thompson (Francoise Surel) is starting a new job as a book editor. She also is trying to get her love life off the ground with little success. On her first day on the job, she comes across a manuscript from twenty years earlier. She takes the story home and gives it a read, finding out that it is the best romance novel she has ever read; no doubt it will be best-seller material. She does come across a slight snag though; there is no ending. She assumes that it was lost amongst years of paperwork, so she convinces her boss (Illiana Douglas) to go looking for the author Phillip Naudet (Terrance Stamp) and get his ending. Cara takes off with her fun-loving friend and roommate Megan (Eliza Dushku) to try and find Naudet as he seems to have gone into hiding. Upon finding Naudet, she finds out that there is no ending, and there never was. The two become friends and Cara tries to inspire him to write his ending.

It is easy to see where this film may have gone wrong in a re-edit. This is a very nice story with some very clever crossovers between the lives of Naudet and Cara, mostly including Billy Zane’s character(s). There are some interesting segments which explore Naudet’s book representing the lives of the characters, and the effects of the friendships, but these ideas suddenly just stop being raised for no reason. It’s as if the writer couldn’t finish the thought so they accidentally left it in the script and hoped someone would finish the thought for them. If these ideas were explored further in the films first cut, it would be a much better film already.

There are also many things that go unexplained. Usually things like this can be ignored, but the film dwells on them so much, then fails to give us any good answer. For example, why is Naudet so determined to make himself a ghost? Is he a secret agent who messed with the wrong people or something? Also, if this novel is so fantastic and everyone loves it, how does it sit on a shelf for twenty years? Also, why does Billy Zane play two characters that are totally unlinked? It’s a nice twist, but the two characters he plays have no connection, therefore the fact that he plays them both is just nonsense.

If it is true that the film was changed, perhaps the first cut can present some better performances. Most of the actors here are very good and have proven many times they are better than this. Most of the time Terrance Stamp simply looks bored and only really shows any feeling in one scene. Francoise Surel was able to show how only two facial expressions can be used for an entire movie, as did Billy Zane. Eliza Dushku is always nice to watch on screen and does well in the scenes she’s in, but her character is frequently leaving abruptly suggesting she may have been needed on the Buffy set or something.

Kiss, The
Something about the film which also drags it down is that it just does not flow. The plot bunny-hops forward from scene to scene, leaving the film looking like it was made by a first year film student. It is so choppy that in one scene, a character seems perfectly healthy, then in the next, they can’t get out of bed and are moments from death. What exactly did they die from? Other scenes involve Dushku’s Megan and her ‘boyfriend’. One minute they are just a one night stand, then without any development they are spending a weekend away together. It’s almost like they either overbooked or underbooked the actors so last minute cuts and additions had to be made.

Despite all that’s wrong with it, The Kiss is not a terrible movie. Although the actors don’t give their all, the characters still can be rather likeable. The story, although poorly executed, is very sweet and does have its heart in the right place. Many people have liked this film, but have not been able to say why. That is exactly it, the film can be charming and likeable, but its shortcomings really drag down what could have been a really good movie.

Presented in 1.33:1 Full Frame, The Kiss turns out alright. One thing there is to be said is that the colours are perfectly balanced and well saturated. Skin tones are also fine. There is no obvious sign of edge enhancement which is good. The troubling problems are some very weak grain that is only visible if you are looking for it (mostly towards the end of the film), some mild film artefacts and the shadows. It seems people in this film hardly cast shadows so there just seems to be something missing from well lit scenes. The only scene where shadow detail was perfect was a scene with Stamp sitting in front of a typewriter. Overall, not too bad a video transfer considering it is straight-to-video and not in widescreen.

The Kiss receives a totally appropriate Dolby 2.0 Stereo track. It’s pretty good for 2.0 as well. Dialogue is always clear which is necessary for this type of film. There is no sign of any type of static or other interference. Background noises are well balanced so they are not over-bearing. There are also some nice left-to-right directional effects in bar room scenes. I also thought I caught some sync problems, but I’m not sure it wasn’t just my imagination. Although just a stereo track, Pro-Logic II is able to filter some of the music and mild background sounds into the surrounds, but very mildly. An impressive 2.0 track for this type of movie.

Kiss, The
We get three trailers. One for The Kiss and two for films I’ve never even heard of. Pretty lame, but predictable on a straight-to-video movie hardly anyone knows about.

The Kiss is one of the biggest missed opportunities I have come across in a film recently. What could have been a very good movie is handled very poorly. It still may put a smile on some faces however. The DVD gets an above-average video transfer with an audio transfer exceeding expectations. An almost barebones release as well with only trailers included. Maybe this one is just worth a weekly rental fee.