Written by: Ron Cotton on September 7th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: France, October 17th, 2001
Director: Jacques Audiard
Writers: Jacques Audiard, Tonino Benacquista
Cast: Vincent Cassel, Emmanuelle Devos, Olivier Gourmet
DVD Released: July 27th, 2003
Approximate Running Time: 119 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
DVD Release: Columbia / TriStar
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
“I am a true product of the ‘cinephile education’ of the seventies and eighties; one film a day, 4 during the weekend. I am sitting on a lot of films. It’s like if I was sleeping in a tool box.” – Jacques Audiard
The lead Carla (Emmanuelle Devos) is a secretary who begrudgingly does her own work as well as others. It begins to take a toll on her emotionally and physically, encompassing her entire life. Being pushed over the brink, she passes out at work. Seeing the condition she’s in, the boss allows her to hire an assistant to alleviate her workload, not knowing her plight. Overzealous of her friends’ affair, she requests for a “perfect” man under a very specific criteria. As luck would have it, her assistant is male regardless of discrimination issues. Paul (Vincent Cassel) whose inexperience and bravado shows though like a sore thumb and determined to keep his parole officer happy. He finds her assistance becoming overwhelming at times and even finds temporary refuge for the assistant. Paul attempts to return her kindness with strong sexual advances that she quickly denies him.
This is a burden that Paul must deal with. Yet, Carla has her own shortcomings. She treats her deafness as if it makes her others horrible invalids. She hides her true obsessions and emotional needs within the confines of her home at night while in the presence of other people; she’s seemingly an emotionally complete self-sufficient individual, at times fooling even herself. Her own motherly protection of others later became total loathing to those she’s enabled over the years. Growing tired of the current state of affairs, Carla with Paul’s assistance turns the tables and takes her rightful place in her office. Her boss, with no where else to turn, must challenge her further with more tasks, giving her the attention she was once deprived. When Carla finds herself a safe haven, it now forces Paul to pay in full a large debt immediately. Paul must choose between his work with Carla or working off his debt. Carla struggles to keep things how they were.
The cinematography was very simplistic, and the movie was budget-like. With the exception with those two prior statements I’ve just mentioned, the movie has a heart of gold. A modern film-noir love story that goes beyond what most Americans would see in a love story with everything that American audiences felt they’ve lacked. The dynamics between Carla and Paul were riveting, and the character’s unappealing facial expression and moods adds allure to this film. Love becomes a bargaining chip that Carla and Paul uses against each other, and both cash in for their own selfish needs. The movies build up continues to mount and unexpected events take place, but all comes full circle. The most memorable scenes are in the second half of this film. Carla’s ability of reading lips (as the movie is so aptly named) plays a strong role throughout this film.
This DVD retains the films original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and it has been anamorphic enhanced. The colors are vivid and grain is non-existent. The only audio option is the original French audio track which is in great shape as all dialog and effects are easy to hear and follow. English subtitles have been included they are easy to read and follow. Overall this DVD has been given a solid audio/video presentation. This DVD is lacking the extras department and the only extras include Red My Lips original trailer and trailers for Double Vision and Cowboy Bebop: The Movie.
Read My Lips is an engrossing tale that should be watched at once, and should be on the shelves of Vincent Cassel or Jacques Audiard fans. A few others would have such a bare bones DVD in ones collection. Quintessential movie for its kind, but once you’ve seen, it’s unforgettable and owning this seems redundant. This is truly the mark of a fine film. I’d be hard pressed to say this very statement about most other films, so I must give my very graceful regards to Jacques Audiard for this fine creation. It’s no shock that Read My Lips won three Ceser Awards and an Official Selection in three International Film Festivals.