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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Commentary - French: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Commentary - French: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • 7 Deleted scenes - (in French)
  • 5 Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Audio commentary - (both in French)
  • 3 Cast/crew biographies
  • Photo gallery
  • 2 Interviews - (in French)

Read My Lips

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 114 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

This is a surprisingly good French film. Shot in 2001, it’s an interesting angle on the criminal underworld meeting an individual’s need for escape and adventure.

Carla is a general dog’s body in her job. She doesn’t hear very well and she works for a surveying and building company as a secretary (who, as we all know, do all the work anyway). Snowed under with work, she is finally granted an assistant in the form of greasy Paul who, it turns out, is an ex-convict on parole. Seeking any escape from the urbanity of her days, she befriends him and helps him get a foothold on social rehabilitation. Meanwhile, a project she has poured three years into is stolen from under her nose by a sales rep. Finally having had enough, she enlists Paul to retrieve the files before blackmailing the rep. Carla’s confidence begins to grow and as it does, she begins to develop a thing for Paul.

"I read lips, not scalps!"

Paul, however, isn’t coping too well. It turns out he owes a lot of money to a local hoodlum. The hood puts him to work in his club until his debt is repaid, but Paul sees an opportunity and enlists Carla to read lips as they are discussing plans for a large undisclosed job. Soon, the life of intrigue, at first just a game to her, becomes quite serious when lives are threatened and before too long she is in way over her head.

The general tension is well played out here, as is the subtle sexual tension between the two main protagonists of Paul and Carla. She develops what could only be called an obsession with him that he seems loathe to act upon, yet the tension between the two is obviously leading somewhere. It is actually quite refreshing to see a film employing tension for the length and breadth of a movie, rather than have characters jumping into bed to fill the lull between first action bit and the film’s climax.

Whilst the film runs just under two hours at 114 minutes, it doesn’t sleep, rather it maintains a steady rhythm that slowly grows more tense as we near the finalé. Jacques Audiard, a relatively new French director, has crafted a well balanced tale with seemingly useless facts and information being used twice or even three times nearer the end. This greatly improves the final act as trite information from earlier becomes important to the conclusion, and leaves a fairly satisfying finalé in its wake. There is but one minor detail in a subplot along the way that doesn’t quite ring true, however, but in the end it makes for little difference to the overall film.

  Video
Contract

The picture quality for the most part is fairly good. Colours are generally downplayed to greys and earth tones in keeping with the entire overcast feeling to the film. Colours are still used, however, and these are good and well saturated. Flesh tones are natural, if the faintest bit washed out, but this again runs with the feeling of the movie. Shadow detail is remarkably nice and while there’s not a lot, the stuff that we do get is well above average clarity-wise. Blacks too look good, and the fairly common night scenes – be they outdoors or in a dimly lit club - are excellent.

We receive this film in the cinema aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with 16:9 anamorphic enhancement and generally the overall quality is awesome. There is one strange glitch at 80:28 when a small area mid screen gets a compression headache for around nine frames.

  Audio
Contract

I love watching films about deaf people in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Not that there are many of them, but the attention to detail is so damn good. Here we get an audio rainbow of varying levels of hearing, from dull muted thumpings to a crystal clear beyond-the-average-person-range of hearing. There are numerous adventures into a packed nightclub and these too, are represented perfectly with heavy bass vibrating the floor under the subwoofer.

Dialogue is all in French, being a French film, and I don’t understand much of the language other than enough to order bread and cheese from a café. Maybe wine too. Anyway, it sounds about right because I didn’t get it. Happily, the subtitles do an adequate job in bringing the story across and don’t treat us like idiots putting a ‘yes’ onscreen everytime a character says ‘oui’.

Music is very nice here, being well chosen to suit the particular mood being garnered and again runs a wide range from classical to modern techno. This too has been well delivered with regard to the hearing world. The only thing I find odd about this DVD is in that there are no captions for the deaf or hearing impaired. They appear on so many discs these days that this is a surprise.

  Extras
Contract

Something for everyone here, but mostly the French speakers are catered for. For the French illiterates like me, there is a photo gallery of behind the scenes and stills, but there are only eight pics in all. Three cast and crew biographies follow for the leads of Vincent Cassel and Emanuelle Devos, plus director Audiard.

The More from Palace Films bit features four trailers for films Respiro, The Best Man’s Wedding, Time Out and The Last Kiss.

For the French speakers, there are a solid bunch of the usual sort of extras. Firstly there are two audio commentaries from director Jacques Audiard flying solo and another from Cassell and Devos. I tuned in just to hear what was going on and the Cassell and Devos one seemed to be a rather jovial affair. (It seems laughing in French is the same as laughing in English).

Seven deleted scenes are next and include an alternate ending that didn’t seem so different (even if it was in French). Then there’s a couple of interviews with Tonio Benacquista and André Desplat asking the questions.

Finally, a subtitled international trailer which intrigues, but doesn’t give much away. For a change.

  Overall  
Contract

A subtle thriller this, with tension creeping up on us slowly but surely. Impressive performances from the two protagonists cement the story well and overall, there’s an almost Hitchcock-like suspense to proceedings. Where the everyday can be suddenly ominous and threatening and usually straight-laced people are pushed to do extraordinary deeds.

Great performances, a well paced story and some clever storytelling make this a quite impressive feature from a relatively new director. Add the extras (better if you’re a French speaker) and the disc is roundly evened out. Good stuff.


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      And I quote...
    "Impressive genre-hopping suspense from France."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          Sony 51cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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