Read My Lips

Year: 2001
Studio: Canal
Director: Jacques Audiard
Writer: Jacques Audiard
Cast: Vincent Cassell, Emmanuelle Devos
Apart from a few exceptions, modern French films (and for that matter those of Italy and several other European countries) are inhabited by the same sot of character; inexpressive people with greasy hair who smoke.

Whether French culture and their language just isn't expressive or emotional as that of Americans (whose movies we see a lot more of and therefore are more influenced by), or it's just the sort of actor they like, the lead Frenchmen in a French movie almost always has a habit of being a greasy, seedy looking character who doesn't wash his (unkempt or long) hair, wears tatty clothes, smokes like a chimney, and mumbles through his or her dialogue like Brando in a Valium stupor.

There are obviously exceptions - Amelie was full of exuberant life (maybe that's why the English speaking world loved it so much), but Vincent Cassell (and to a lesser extent, Emmanuelle Devos) fills the role of the greasy, untrustworthy, disinterested hero to a T.

As ex convict Paul, he comes to work at the office of a demure, near-deaf and often overlooked secretary Carla. He's in trouble with former lowlife employers and wants to rip them off. Whether Carla is attracted to him or the prospect of a bit of excitement in her life is never entirely clear, but she hatches a scheme for them to help each other in their respective lines of work.

It travels along pretty slowly and uninspiringly until the climax, where the bad guys have got Paul and Carla's lip-reading ability (which has been a feature of the film all the way through but about which you keep wondering to what use it will be put) has to save the day, which it does to great effect.

Not as effective a thriller as a character piece as it takes a lot of time to explore the relationship between Paul and Carla, and the thrills are kept to a minimum until the last few acts. Besides that dispassionate delivery of lines and performance do nothing to endear the film to your emotions.

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