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Read My Lips

Jacques Audiard

Sur mes levres

One of the best French films we’re likely to see this year,
Read My Lips plays fast and loose with the conventions of the romantic comedy and the film noir to provide an unpredictable and thoroughly refreshing entertainment. Director Jacques Audiard, whose first outing this is since 1995’s A Self-Made Hero, has a fascination with life’s underdogs and the ingenious means they can employ to overcome their lowly status. The heroine of Read My Lips is downtrodden secretary Carla (Emmanuelle Devos), who suffers from hearing difficulties and is taken for granted by her arrogant colleagues. Although frustrated by her position at work and the lack of love in her life, Carla is never presented as a powerless victim. Like all of Audiard’s characters, this seemingly ordinary, even shy individual harbours ambitions and is not above a little deceit and manipulation when it comes to getting ahead.
Carla’s chance for advancement comes in the unlikely form of Paul (Vincent Cassel), a rough ex-con who needs a job to keep the parole officer off his back. Paul is not exactly adept at office work, but Carla sees some hidden potential in the rogue and hires him on the spot. Using Paul to advance her position at work by stealing files from a professional rival, Carla returns the favour by helping him in a dangerous plan to rob a gangster of his drug money.
Far from being either a conventional romantic comedy or an outright thriller, Read My Lips emerges as a darkly amusing study of two misfit characters whose very different skills and shortcomings somehow combine so that each complements the other. Eschewing deep characterisation in favour of spot-on observation and physical action, Audiard and his splendid cast create a wholly convincing and very amusing duo who find themselves bound together through mutual need.
France, 2001. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 118 mins.

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