Title just about sums up the action — or lack of it — in Philippe Harel’s well-observed, minimalist “The Story of a Boy Who Wanted to Be Kissed.” While pic is ideal for fests concerned with Awkward Young Adulthood, film depicts the mundane so effectively that it’s borderline soporific.
Film faithfully records the lackluster routine of Raoul (Julien Collet), a floundering young man who, when asked “What do you do?,” freely admits, “Not much.” This nondescript cipher, age 20, lives alone in a garret and is ostensibly researching an art history thesis on “The Color White in Painting.”
Raoul also diligently observes women in cafes and on the street, sometimes following them but never finding the nerve to speak.
When a suave buddy tells him to visit a prostitute, Raoul replies that he “wants to be kissed.” Halfway through the story (which covers six months), Raoul strikes up an indifferent carnal relationship with Isabelle (Helene Medigue). Raoul gets his kiss but also his comeuppance.
Nice stylistic touches include assorted women describing their sex lives directly to the camera — which represents Raoul as he reads “The Hite Report”– and a scene in which Raoul imagines all surrounding sound and movement halting as he approaches a girl in a bar.
As he proved in his deft short films and 65-minute indie pic “Un Ete sans histoires” (1992), scripter/helmer Harel is a kind of social scientist when it comes to nailing existential discomfort. Banality triumphs down to the last detail when Raoul pays a drab and uneventful visit to his parents in the countryside.
Collet does such a good job of fading into the woodwork wherever he goes that the viewer has no difficulty understanding why Raoul’s love life is so unsatisfactory. Having a good time is just too laborious.