Happy November 1 to you all. It is I, Piper, editor, camera operator, usher, ticket-taker, curator, and concession attendant of the Lazy Eye Theatre. It is my honor to help Nathaniel while he is away, and it is my pleasure to continue a new series on Film Experience called “Kissing” not to be confused with another series "Cussing" which is to come later in the year (don't bet on that last idea). I am told I can write about anything as it relates to kissing, which is quite intimidating really because there are so many things to write about when writing about kissing. Naturally, I went to my funny place, but couldn’t think of any funny kiss that was really worth mentioning. Then I wanted to write about the worst kiss in movie history (Stallone and Stone in The Specialist?), but the truth is I’m kind of a softy when it comes to the love arena, so I wanted to take a serious approach to this series. So I thought about movie kisses in general and I decided I don’t really like them. Why? Because I just don’t buy most of them. How can I? I’m not the one kissing or being kissed. Wouldn’t it be great if we could kiss all these beautiful stars so that we would know if they were good kissers. Like is Kate Winslet a good kisser? Or Rachel Weisz? I might call each of them and see if I can set up five minutes to find out.
To me the magic of a kiss doesn’t really happen with the kiss at all. It happens in the moments leading up to the kiss. I compare it to a Dirty Harry movie with a really good bad guy. The purpose of every Dirty Harry movie is to set up a bad guy, make him super bad and then kill him off in the end. If the bad guy isn’t bad enough, there isn’t the satisfaction when he gets killed, so you have to make him really bad and kill him really good. Same thing goes with a kiss. Building to a really good kiss is what it’s all about. If those moments before the kiss aren't good, the kiss isn't either.
So most movie kisses fail because they don’t allow for those moments that build to a perfect kiss. Because a kiss is really everything. Movies today use the sex scene as the ultimate declaration of love, but a good kiss is really the truth. So I guess that’s why I am constantly struck by the kiss between George (Jimmy Stewart) and Mary (Donna Reed) in Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. In the movie, you really feel that George wants to kiss Mary, but more than that you feel like Jimmy wants to kiss Donna. And that’s what sells me on the scene. It’s real. As the two of them listen in on a phone call from old pal Sam Wainwright, they wiggle and squirm because they are unsure what will happen next. There’s obviously chemistry between the two and Capra holds the scene long enough so that when George finally grabs Mary and kisses her, there are sparks. The actual kiss is clumsy, short and not even shot that well but what makes it magic are the moments before it. And in my book, that makes for a mighty good kiss.