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Read My Lips (Sur mes lèvres)

Mousy, introverted Carla (Emmanuelle Devos) toils away at a high-end construction company, overworked and under-appreciated. Painfully shy, she isolates herself from her co-workers by turning off her hearing aids; profoundly deaf, she can hear virtually nothing without the devices, and she takes advantage of her disability by tuning out when the noisy world becomes annoying. When her boss suggests she hire a temp to help out on a big project, Carla's instructions to the employment agency are surprising — she wants a man. One with nice hands. The underling she hires is wholly inappropriate, a scruffy ex-con named Paul (Vincent Cassel) who's fresh from prison and doesn't even know how to work a copy machine. Pressured by his parole officer (Olivier Perrier), Vincent feels he has no choice but to walk the straight and narrow, even though he's grossly under-qualified. But having her own hired muscle has its benefits; because of her ability to read lips, Carla knows that she's being screwed over by one of the company's salesmen, so she sabotages the jerk by having Paul steal a file from his car. Then Paul, who owes a lot of francs to some very bad men, demands that Carla repay the favor by using her lip-reading skills to help him pull a job on the fellas to whom he's in debt. With an obvious nod to American noir thrillers, director Jacques Audiard has created a surprising film that takes its sweet, compelling time getting to the meat of the story — then keeps you utterly fascinated, waiting to see how these two get out of everything they've gotten into. Cassel and Devos are marvelous as a pair of not-entirely sympathetic losers who enable each other to be so much more than they could possibly be on their own, with a smoldering chemistry as they dance around their mutual attraction. Read My Lips (2001) is a unique film about unappealing, unethical schlubs that you'll somehow find yourself caring for deeply, with a sustained and anxious final half-hour that's damn near as riveting as Hitchcock's best. Columbia TriStar's DVD release offers a pristine anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with gorgeous Dolby Digital 5.1 audio in French, with English subtitles; this is a film is which sound in all ranges is an integral part of the story, and the audio is superb. Included are trailers for Cowboy Bebop: The Movie and the Tony Leung horror-thriller Double Vision. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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