In the Rodin Museum in Paris, there is a guided tour of Rodin’s most famous work The Kiss – and how he laboured for years to get the pose and symbiosis between the man and woman absolutely right. Rodin’s masterpiece remains one of the most recognisable and downright sexy pieces of art in the world today.
In cinema, the kiss is the culmination of longing, desire and a hot ante pasti to sex. Modern film depicts the leads grabbing each other and eating each other hungrily. But the kiss used to be much more than that; it once meant more than mere kissing.
The kiss used to be THE MOMENT –when we saw the two leads, finally at long last, give in to their absolute need to just hold each other for dear life and their lips met in a passionate but by today’s standards, chaste embrace. More often than not the dialogue was the most romantic and unforgettable that replayed over and over again in our heads.
Now Voyager: "Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars!"
Gone with the Wind: "You need to be kissed and often. And by someone who knows how!"
Casablanca – "Kiss me as if it were the last time"
Wow, hotdog – can you imagine if you were to kiss someone as if it were the last time? One has to wonder if modern audiences could even fathom the sheer breadth of that request.
The technique of old where language and WHAT the leads were saying to each other has been lost, I would argue, completely. Today’s main characters are portrayed as brazen, cynical and blasé about most things, and instead of vulnerability we get moral insensibility, so how can something like a kiss mean very much?
I watched The Notebook over and over again and I wondered where the intelligent stuff had gone. I found it laughable when he said that he wrote ‘365 letters’. He wrote her ‘every day for a year.’ Thanks for enlightening us on the length of a year.
What if he had said instead: “I can’t believe you just disappeared. Left. Forgot about me. Us. There was never a day that I didn’t think of you. And what we lost.’
Somehow modern day romance is puerile and frankly, forgettable. The stuff we really remember in film (and that’s why we got the movies to be moved, inspired, entertained but mostly removed from our hum drum lives) is the moment when he just gives in: he looks at her, she looks at him and there is a sudden realisation that mere words cannot express what is running thorough their minds. And the KISS is everything. Because that’s when the barrier, the sandpit, the dyke, whatever you want to call it, is broached, and wham, real intimacy begins. The kiss, in a sense, is an act of honesty.
Hollywood often mistakes this silent complicity between a man and woman who are ultimately hot for each other, and instead of language, gives us the lunge. There is no other way to describe modern day kissing. Like fast food, it seems to be something that people need to do fast as if in a great hurry. Are they in such a rush to be somewhere else?
The truth is we wait the whole darn film for some sign that they’re going to get together. And when they do is it either the anticlimax of our expectations or something extraordinary. Clint and Meryl in Bridges of Madison County – now that was some ‘meeting of the minds’! All the copulation was done off screen and what we got was one of the best lingering, long romantic moments with the kiss that spoke many, many words. Mind you there was a lot of background dialogue in the song playing which was highly evocative but Client and Meryl clearly had all the time in the world to explore and savour that first kiss.
Contrast that moment with say, Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity and the whole; ‘wow factor’ of emotion just begins to seem tawdry.
And that is essentially the problem with romance in film these days. Men and women on screen seem to say little and emote in action not in words. Why can’t the kiss be the best moment of the film like it used to be? Now it s the inevitable par for the course moment but we don’t feel anything. No one seems to get lost in each other anymore.
And instead of kissing we get that ridiculous simulated sex. Now honestly – sex is pretty dramatic stuff and best-done behind closed doors. To watch two people simulating sex is a bit like drinking a skinny latte in the North Pole. It's a barely there moment without much sustenance. One has to ask – what’s the point?
Consider the sexiest moment on screen – Rhett Butler grabs Scarlet in his arms and carries her up the sprawling staircase. Cut to the next morning as she lays contentedly in his arms. Did we need to see anything?
Real romance, sex, and lust, in fact the whole nine yards, is in the kiss. It is the longed-for silent moment where speaking just doesn’t seem to mean as much as the meeting of two lips and the locking of two souls – it is a prelude. The real thing because face it, we don’t lock lips with strangers on the train or the bus. But it’s the one thing that we dream of doing with the person we fancy the pants off.
And please, can we have real kissing!!!! THE TYPE WHERE HIS LIPS AND HER LIPS ARE BANG ON TOP OF EACH OTHER. None of this half nibbling of the nose or upper lip. Golly, where did this excuse for a smooch come from? If we want the kiss to be big and eloquent and orgasmic without the carnal knowledge (just yet), it has got to be HUGE in scale – sultry, desperate, life affirming, breathless to the point that they couldn’t bear to stop but will have to (or they’ll both pass out). Close your eyes and fantasise about the person you would most like to kiss and imagine WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT, the blink-or-you’d-miss-it smooch would be!
Longing is exactly that – something that should take a long time. The kiss is the big moment in the film, the entrée as it were, not the side order. It’s the unspoken word of love.
Copyright Samantha van Dalen. This article first appeared on shadowlocked.com - a really excellent movie website.
Photo and Painting Copyright SvD.