BFI video history of “120 Years of the Cinematic Kiss,” from Thomas Edison to Shame (VIDEO).

This Video History Chronicles the Hidden Side of 120 Years of On-Screen Kissing

This Video History Chronicles the Hidden Side of 120 Years of On-Screen Kissing

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Slate's Culture Blog
Dec. 23 2015 11:18 AM

This Video History Chronicles the Hidden Side of 120 Years of On-Screen Kissing

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Is a kiss ever really just a kiss? Not in the movies, according to a new video essay from the British Film Institute. In “Lips, Love, and Power,” the BFI explores the evolution of on-screen lip-locking, from the first documented on-screen kiss in Thomas Edison’s aptly named 1896 film The Kiss (considered obscene at the time) to the smackers of Michael Fassbender’s sex-hungry loner in Shame.

All varieties of smooches are unpacked and placed within their historical contexts, such as the groundbreaking (platonic) same-sex kiss between two men in the very first Best Picture winner Wings and the rather conventional happy ending peck between Molly Ringwald’s Sam and her “dull, but handsome guy” in Sixteen Candles. It’s all tied together to create a greater understanding of just how significant the on-screen kiss has become. As an A.O. Scott quote reads at the video’s introduction, “Cinema may not have invented kissing, but over the course of the 20th century, movies helped make it more essential.

Aisha Harris is a Slate culture writer and host of the Slate podcast Represent.