THE KISS--the last silent movie for both Greta Garbo and MGM--is one of her best films, stylishly directed by Jacques Feyder (KNIGHT WITHOUT ARMOUR), and co-starring a baby-faced, 21-year-old Lew Ayres in his second film.
Frenchwoman Irene Guarry (Greta Garbo), stuck in a loveless marriage with elderly businessman Charles Guarry (Anders Randolf), is having an affair with lawyer Andre Dubail (Conrad Nagel). Charles refuses to give Irene a divorce, and she won't leave him, so Andre leaves her and moves to Paris. The
suspicious Charles hires a private detective to trail Irene and learns that Pierre (Lew Ayres), the 18-year-old son of a wealthy family, has developed a crush on Irene. Before going back to school, Pierre visits Irene to get a picture of her as a remembrance, but when she gives him an innocent
goodbye kiss, he tries to make love to her. Charles witnesses this and attacks Pierre, and during a struggle, Charles is killed.
Irene lies to the police and tells them that her husband was shot while she was asleep, but her story is full of contradictions and she's arrested for his murder. Andre returns to defend Irene and she lies to him as well, and at the trial, he gets her acquitted by asserting that Charles committed
suicide because he was on the verge of bankruptcy. Afterwards, Irene breaks down and admits to Andre that she shot Charles because he was about to kill Pierre, and Andre forgives her.
Fast paced and visually inventive, THE KISS is an example of silent filmmaking at its most elegant. Director Feyder freely employs fluid camera movement, superimpositions, lap dissolves and montages to keep the story moving, as well as to express thoughts and emotions. His use of tracking shots
and synchronized sound effects are particularly impressive, especially during the varying depictions of Charles's shooting, both in "real time" and during the innovative flashbacks which show Irene's account to the police. When we first see the fight, Charles beats Pierre and drags him inside his
office. The door slams and the camera stays outside, then quickly pulls back, and a loud bang is heard. During the flashback, Feyder manipulates time by showing the hands of a clock moving back and forth as Irene keeps changing her mind about when the shooting occurred, and the living room windows
fly open and shut as she tries to remember if they were closed or not. The trial is cleverly and concisely telescoped via stylized vignettes inside the courtroom as well as newspaper headlines and photos as they're being swept off the street or used to wrap fish. And after Irene is acquitted and
confesses to Andre, another strikingly filmed flashback from inside the office reveals what really happened, and the film concludes somewhat shockingly by not punishing Irene for killing her husband. As always, Garbo is simply fabulous, with Feyder's loving close-ups of her sensuous face and her
braless evening gowns exuding an overwhelming eroticism, and for a change, the film itself doesn't let her down in terms of quality. It's unfortunate that Feyder would leave America in 1931 and return to France, for he would have undoubtedly become one of Hollywood's best romantic directors of the
'30s, although he did get to work with Garbo once more, making the German version of ANNA CHRISTIE (1930), which many consider to be superior to Clarence Brown's American version. (Violence, sexual situations.)
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- Review: THE KISS--the last silent movie for both Greta Garbo and MGM--is one of her best films, stylishly directed by Jacques Feyder (KNIGHT WITHOUT ARMOUR), and co-starring a baby-faced, 21-year-old Lew Ayres in his second film. Frenchwoman Irene Guarry (Greta G… (more)