Read My Lips

Read My Lips

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Once you discover that the heroine is deaf and this is a thriller about stealing money from a drug dealer, you know that lip reading is going to be essential to the plot. It's not unlike the blind girl in a murder mystery who is at an advantage when the lights go out.

Second guessing cinematic clich├ęs doesn't work when up against an original director, such as Jacques Audiard. His use of sound is never obvious. The handheld camera stays close without getting in your face. The script avoids sentimentality. The performances offer little gratification to romantics.

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Carla (Emmanuelle Devos) is a secretary who hates being taken for granted. When she complains, she is given an assistant to do the fax-and-copying. This turns out to be Paul (Vincent Cassel), the least suitable candidate, since his experience of office work is nil, having just been released from prison.

Carla is sexually frustrated, lonely, bored. Paul is self-sufficient, threatening, unsophisticated. She asks him to steal a file from a colleague's car. He refuses, determined not to do anything to jeopardise his position with his parole officer. She blackmails him and so begins a strange liaison that will lead to violence and death.

What lifts the film high above run-of-the-filth gangster flicks is its refusal to recognise any of the signposts, as if discovering a way through to the bitter end without a map. Paul wants to go straight, because he hates jail so much. Carla doesn't know what she wants, other than a more fulfilling life. He cannot communicate his feelings. She finds the courage of his convictions exhilarating. Not that this is a love story. It's a robbery. With a difference.

And the difference is that Audiard breaks the rules.

Reviewed on: 06 Mar 2002
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Read My Lips packshot
Deaf secretary and ex-con plan robbery of drugs money from night club owner.
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Director: Jacques Audiard

Writer: Jacques Audiard, Tonino Benacquista

Starring: Emmanuelle Devos, Vincent Cassel, Olivier Gourmet, Olivier Perrier, Olivia Bonamy

Year: 2001

Runtime: 115 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France

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