Pas sur la bouche (2003)

NOT ON THE LIPS (Pas sur la bouche!)

(director: Alain Resnais; screenwriters: based on the 1925 operetta ‘Pas sur la bouche!’ by André Barde/Maurice Yvain; cinematographer: Renato Berta; editor: Hervé de Luze; music: Maurice Yvain; cast: Sabine Azema (Gilberte Valandray), Isabelle Nanty (Arlette Poumaillac), Audrey Tautou (Huguette Verberie), Jalil Lespert (Charley), Lambert Wilson (Eric Thomson), Pierre Arditi (Georges Valandray), Daniel Prevost (Faradel), Darry Cowl (Madame Foin), Nina Weissenberg (Juliette, Maid); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Bruno Pésery; Wellspring; 2003-France-in French with English subtitles)
“If light opera is your thing, this one is lovable and soulful.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This theatrical romantic musical comedy, an old-fashioned French farce, is a delightful confection cooked up by the 81-year-old experimental filmmaker Alain Resnais (“Stavisky”/”Providence”/”Night and Fog”); it’s based on the 1925 operetta ‘Pas sur la bouche!’ by André Barde. It was last filmed in 1931. The dialogue is part sung, part spoken.

Chic Parisian society lady Gilberte Valandray (Sabine Azema) is happily married to wealthy industrialist Georges Valandray (Pierre Arditi). She flirts but doesn’t go to bed with several suitors that include the grasping eager to please ugly middle-aged bachelor Faradel (Daniel Prevost) and the handsome young pretentious “CooCooist” artist Charley (Jalil Lespert), who is obsessed with conquering her. Georges is unaware that his wife was previously married in America to cold fish businessman Eric Thomson (Lambert Wilson), in a marriage that was not legally valid in France. Georges trusts his wife implicitly because he believes that by being his wife’s first lover she will always be true to him and therefore is not jealous that she always has men around her. Gilberte confides to her frustrated old maid sister, Arlette (Isabelle Nanty), that she loves only Georges. Huguette (Audrey Tautou), a well-groomed young society friend of Gilberte’s, desires Charley, but he prefers the challenge of scoring Gilberte and ignores her. The action intensifies with the arrival of house guest Yank millionaire Eric Thomson, who surprises Gilberte that he’s here to form a business partnership deal with her metallurgist husband. The comedic hi-jinks come about as Gilberte schemes with her sister, the only other person to know about her secret marriage, to stop the brooding Eric from blabbing.

The film’s title derives from the dislike of being kissed on the lips by the sinister Yank character played by Lambert Wilson, who finds it unhygienic. He consummated his marriage with Gilberte in a biblical sense but never kissed her on the lips.

The ensemble cast is superb and the stage sets are a marvel in color coordination, and it marvelously closes with the cast taking bows in front of a shiny blue sequined curtain. Resnais colorfully recreates the art deco world of the 1920s stage and gives new life to such shamelessly dated lyrics like “Dadaism is over and out. Cubism has had its day/Nowadays without a doubt CooCooism’s the way.” If light opera is your thing, this one is lovable and soulful.