Read My Lips


France| 2001. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 118 min.

The release of a new film by the talented French director Jacques Audiard (see above) is such a rarity that it’s well worth taking a look at his previous gem, Read My Lips, which was made four years ago. Carefully composed scripts, nimble direction, a dynamic shooting style and an inspired use of actors characterise all of Audiard’s work. What The Beat That My Heart Skipped does for Romain Duris, Read My Lips does for Vincent Cassel. Which is to say that Audiard once again turns one of French cinema’s leading men into a real actor. As it happens, Cassel plays second fiddle to the even more wonderful Emmanuelle Devos in the present film. Devos shines as downtrodden secretary Carla, who suffers from hearing problems. Crucially though, 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. Her chance for advancement comes when she’s allowed to hire an assistant. Enter Paul (Cassel), a hardened criminal who would take any job to keep his parole officer quiet. Amusingly, Carla hires this reprobate on the spot, for reasons which seem more personal than professional. What follows is not a soppy romance about a pair of misfits finding comfort in each other’s arms, but a bracing suspense drama in which the unlikely team of Paul and Carla pit their wits against a vicious gangster in a dangerous scam to steal his drug money. Skilfully juggling elements of the romantic comedy and the film noir, Audiard combines the laughs and the thrills with such mastery that the entire film exerts an exhilarating sense of excitement. With this film and The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Audiard can stake his claim as contemporary French cinema’s most exciting director.

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