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    French Kiss
    Magna/Magna . R4 . COLOR . 111 mins . M15+ . PAL


    Kate (Meg Ryan) is a lactose intolerant soon-to-be-Canadian American who has always played it safe. Safe country, safe job, safe partner. When her fiance Charlie (Timothy Hutton) leaves for a medical conference in Paris, her fear of flying and dislike of the French keeps Kate’s feet firmly planted in Toronto. However in only a matter of days her beloved Charlie calls to say that he's fallen for a French "goddess" and is staying for good. And so Kate finds herself terror-stricken yet on a plane, jetting off to Paris to find Charlie and win him back. In the seat beside her sits Luc, a hairy, nicotine-encrusted Frenchman who gets her drunk on vodka, swaps deflowering stories, and questions her sexuality.

    Upon landing in Paris, Luc slips some contraband into Kate’s backpack, knowing full well that customs will search him. But before he can catch up with her, Kate's off to find Charlie whom she finds locked in the arms of the beautiful Juliette (Susan Anbeh). After a brief feinting episode, Kate wakes to find that a local footpad has made off with her things. Wanting to retrieve his precious cargo, Luc offers to help her get them back, and winds up helping with Charlie too - a proposition that takes them south to Cannes, via Luc’s homeland. Stripped of her money, passport and clothes, Kate discovers a new found freedom, embracing chaos and the French way of life. Although she's still fixated on getting Charlie back, Luc is definitely beginning to grow on her…

    French Kiss was one of the first movies I bought when sell-through VHS titles became available, and still remains one of my favourite romantic comedies. The reason is simple – Kevin Kline. What could have been just another formulaic Meg Ryan vehicle is brought to life by Kline’s good-hearted scoundrel Luc. Brimming over with a personality that eclipses everyone else on screen, Kline single-handedly saves this film from genre mediocrity. Wringing the Gaelic personality of as many laughs as is possible, Kline’s every line, gesture and expression plays beautifully. French Kiss should be watched for his performance alone.

    Meg Ryan, on the other hand, has portrayed the same character, that bubbly yet slightly uptight thirty-something, in countless romantic comedies since its debut in When Harry Met Sally. Competent, yet bringing little extra to proceedings, Ryan is thankfully content to play the antithesis to Kline, and the comedic straight man in the partnership. The romantic chemistry between the two is debatable, but Kline’s caustic and offhand Frenchman is a delight to watch and produces some genuinely funny, laugh-out-loud moments.

    As Kate’s wayward fiance Charlie, Timothy Hutton is a complete non-starter. I know Kate is the type of character that ‘plays it safe’, but no one could possibly believe she is interested in such a bland and boring non-entity - it’s just plain ridiculous. And then he also snags a stunning, French sex-kitten? Please. The supporting cast is also largely forgettable, with one notable exception. Jean Reno (who by definition can do no wrong) is wasted in the small part of Police Inspector Jean-Paul, the good-hearted cop hot on Luc's trail, but he brings his characteristic charm to the film nonetheless.

    All in all, French Kiss has its problems, but Kevin Kline’s performance makes the film, in this reviewers humble opinion, it is one of the nineties' funniest romantic comedies and one worthy of your attention.


    Shot entirely on location by four time Academy Award-nominee Owen Roizman (The French Connection, The Exorcist), French Kiss features some stunning scenery from Paris, Cannes, and the French countryside. We are treated to picturesque vistas from the Provence region(including magnificent sun-drenched scenes from in and around the vineyards of La Ravelle), images of grimy Parisian backstreets, and the beautiful Cannes harbourside. Indeed, after endlessly watching my VHS copy of French Kiss, it was with eager anticipation that I awaited the local DVD release, if only to savour its 2.35:1 widescreen presentation.

    And boy was I disappointed. For its long awaited region 4 release, Magna have provided us with a full-frame, pan-and-scan transfer of French Kiss that certainly does not live up to expectations. And where the hell did they get this master?

    Although almost imperceptible in the bright outdoor scenes, the image displays continuous levels of low level grain; becoming distracting during the darker scenes. I suspect the grain is due to MPEG compression rather than a bad telecine job because the effect worsens when the camera pans. The level of detail on display varies with the grain. In the lighter outdoor scenes, the image looks almost sharp and the level of detail is very good. When the image darkens and the grain increases, the image looks soft and the level of detail is reduced. In addition, some background detail is reduced by the odd instance of posterization.

    Although there were few film artefacts to be seen, annoying specs from the telecine machine are evident in the first ten minutes. In terms of colour, the palette is generally good, bringing to life the colours of the French countryside and the Cannes seaside. However, early on the reds seem a little oversaturated and Kate’s skin tone looks a little flushed. The all-important black levels are solid throughout, but shadow detail is disappointingly low. All in all a depressing offering from Magna.

    There is only one audio option, a Dolby Digital 2.0 English mix that is satisfactory given the genre. Being a dialogue-centric film the centre channel carries the majority of the sound, and thankfully the dialogue is always clear and distinct. The front channels carry the majority of the sound effects and the (decidedly French) score. A small amount of ambient sound is also routed through the surround channel, especially during the flight, airport and hotel lobby scenes. The subwoofer remains quiet throughout. All in all, a quite unremarkable soundtrack that provides a reasonable compliment to the film.

    In terms of the disc itself, the menus are non-anamorphic, garishly bright, and subtly animated. Kevin Kline’s delightful version of La Mer (as used in the film) plays in the background. In terms of extras the disappointment continues, with a grand total of zero extras included by Magna – no trailer, no production notes, no nothing. Contrast this to the region 1 disc released by Fox that presents the film at its original aspect ratio (although admittedly not 16x9 enhanced), with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, and with (at least) the theatrical trailer, and there’s no contest. Bad luck Magna.

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  •   And I quote...
    "One of my personal favourites gets disappointing treatment for its long awaited local release. "
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • Receiver:
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    • Amplifier:
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    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
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    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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