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Sur mes lèvres
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Reviews & Ratings for
Read My Lips More at IMDbPro »Sur mes lèvres (original title)

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Read between the lines

Author: crypticcrytic from Oak Park, IL USA
30 July 2002

Put yourself into Carla's shoes. She is an overworked, unappreciated administrative drudge who is invisible. You know her: she's trained three of her last three bosses, knows where all of the bodies are buried and might even look back at you in the mirror when you brush your teeth. Always having time for another thankless task and does it better than most despite a serious disability, she has the desk on the way to the restroom that becomes the repository of half-finished cups of coffee begging to be spilled. What? You don't want to hear it? Well, she can't and neither can you until your hearing aid is in place. Prepare to experience life from the perspective of the hearing impaired.

Carla (Emmanuelle Devos) needs a change in her life. Work is leading nowhere; friends are relying on her to meet their domestic needs and the only way out starts with a collapse that goes virtually unnoticed. She won't take a vacation - a contract is going critical - so the only alternative is to hire an assistant. Carla submits requirements that convey her real needs: a 'well-groomed' man. This brings an applicant for approval that reminds us that we should be careful with our wishes.

Paul (Vincent Cassell) does everything wrong from the start of his job interview and his getting hired clearly demonstrates Carla's interest in his non-job-related qualities. She sees potential in this former thief and as the story unfolds, their relationship grows in a very unusual pattern of co-dependence.

Paul has a difficult transition returning to the world outside of prison walls and finds himself in another sort of prison: one of the office variety and another of indentured servitude to pay off an old debt. His skills as a thief help Carla win a political battle in the office. But Paul sees a grander opportunity with Carla's skill in lip reading and draws her even further into a world of intrigue.

This is a brutal film noir unrated and probably suitable for older teens. Carla grows more powerful, professionally as well as personally, as the story progresses and her disability gives her clear advantages over the rest of us. She grows as a woman discovering her sensual side while she uses her resources to overcome the obstacles of competing in a man's world.

The two main characters are meant for each other, in a strange way. Without Paul, Carla will remain in her role of a doormat. She has our sympathy, hopes and best wishes even if she doesn't make the best decisions along the way.

You will hear the world through Carla's ears, from awkward adjustments of your hearing aid, muffled sounds, all but inaudible without it to relatively distinct voices when you can see who's talking. With one major sense disabled, we see Carla's heightened intuitive power to compensate. And we can all use that sense to hear not only what people say, but also what they really mean.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A well writen and complex film which contains superb acting

Author: K11 from Birmingham, England
29 June 2002

Vincent Cassel plays the part of Paul, an ex-con assigned to an office job where he meets Carla, a secretary who is ‘quite deaf', when she has her hearing aids in ‘very deaf‘ when not (played by Emmanuelle Devos). Together they help each other to develop as people.

What was particularly interesting about this film was the complexity of the characters – not fitting into obvious stereotypes. Paul appears uneasy in the office environment, is it that he's just not cut out for work? This belief is dispelled when he gets a job in a bar and shines.

The film has a certain amorality which I find refreshing and showed how easy is to act criminally, even if we think it is harmless or justified.

Finally, it is a film full of great ‘moments' both touching and humorous. One is when Carla is babysitting and is trying to comfort a screaming baby. She continues to cuddle it – but takes her hearing aids out for her own comfort.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A gripping and surprising film

Author: ids from France
24 June 2002

"Sur mes lèvres" is an excellent surprise. The co-writer and director managed to play with the codes (film noir, office movie, romantic comedy, thriller) without falling prey to stereotypes. Vincent Cassel is one of those amazing actors who can "be" beautiful and powerful in some movies (e.g. The Brotherhood of wolves) and "be" ugly and rejected with similar ease (The Hatred or in this movie). The overall mood of the movie is black, but it has many incredibly funny moments, and does not try to be realistic all the way. Like other reviewers, I would not be surprised to see the script adapted by Hollywood for the American market, with all the "zest" gone (Julia Roberts as the female lead, Tom Cruise as the sexy intern, etc)... Here the characters are totally believable but not "common", and the theme of deafness is explored with much depth. Worth several viewings, no doubt.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Superb thriller.

Author: dwblurb from Perth, Australia (currently in London, UK)
18 June 2002

Surely one the French films of the decade so far, a taut, atmospheric thriller making full use of the lead characters hearing impediment to use sound in a way rarely explored in cinema. Emannuelle Devos gives a truly stunning , multi-faceted performance, at times devious and manipulative, at other times open and vulnerable. Another reason why those who appreciate quality cinema should keep their eyes open for offerings from France.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Very Good

Author: kevin c from HERTFORD, England
4 June 2002

The French seem to consistently adapt film noir to contemporary film-making and this is one of the best.

Audiard is back on form. The two leads are excellent (is Cassell ever bad?). You have the sense of their desperation, and desire to better and/or excite their lives.

This film will be remade in Hollywood with 101 twists, and will be lame.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

wonderful, eerie, original Film Noir

Author: salome-3
16 May 2002

wonderful French film noir, whose perhaps greatest idea is to set a Noir-ish tale in a world of dreary offices and daily misdemeanours.

Add to the mix: a wonderful female lead (a deaf, underappreciated secretary) whose life takes an unexpected turn after hiring an assistant; a good male lead (a former thief freshly released from prison who becomes her office assistant - and then something more dangerous); two good actors (Emmanuelle Devos and Vincent Cassel in absolute "no glamour" mode); a well-crafted screenplay; fresh, edgy dialogue; simple and effective direction...

French people are so lucky to still have good genre movies that manage to make strong statements about society.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

sexual/psychological suspense film with absurd romantic notions

Author: kinolieber
9 March 2002

film is terrific suspenser with vivid believable characters and nifty twisty plot. music and sound design add greatly to film's effectiveness. however, the underlying assumption that plain jane lead can only find love and fulfillment by slavishly chasing thuggish love interest, joining him in dangerous criminal activities, and ignoring his repeated betrayals and rejections until she finally breaks through to his heart of gold is laughable if not actually despicable. women with high self esteem beware.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Not so keen with it.

Author: Rui Pinheiro from Portugal
26 March 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I watched it back in 2005.

I wrote a review in Portuguese at that time, that I translate here to English. Note that I'm Deaf, so I have my perspective biased toward how Deaf people feel when seeing somewhat "fake-deaf" movies.

Interpretation was not that though. Of course I wouldn't do better, but the movie lacks a lot of how a Deaf person really feels the world. Some parts of the movie where created just to "illustrate" but they don't correspond to the reality. As an example: the hearing aids have a power off button, so there is no need to constantly remove them from the ears! I think that doing things clearly wrong just to have someone understand something is not the good way of doing things.

After half the movie watched, I started feeling that the pseudo-deafness of the actress, incredibly put in a job where what you most see is she participating in meetings and answering phone calls (LOL! You probably would never see a real Deaf working in such a job) was just a pretext to justify the lip reading capacity. I'm Deaf for almost 30 years, I do (I'm forced to, anyway) a lot of lip reading every day and I can assure you that it's not possible to read lips the way she does in the movie (at very long distances and in very bad conditions). There are highly trained men (e.g. in intelligence services) that are able to do something like that, but not that easy.

Other wrong thing in the movie is that the actress is show to be not keen with Deaf Community. Although it is true that many deaf people is so ashamed of their condition that they reject the Deaf Community, it is also true that deaf people in these conditions are not proficient with sign language. How can someone that never signs and systematically avoids Deaf Community be so good in signing? It seemed to me like those old movies where all Asiatics know martial arts.

About the story itself, it was not that special. Someone decided that mixing a fake deaf with some nude scenes, a tattooed criminal, a mafia-like crew and some examples of discrimination and the moralized replies would make a good film, then did it.

I confess that I laugh in many parts of the movie, wondering if they did the entire makeup without even consulting a true Deaf person.


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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Partially disabled lonely heart turned bad girl joins forces with ex-con sociopath in French version of 'Bonnie and Clyde'

Author: Turfseer from United States
5 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Carla is a partially deaf woman who works in an office at a real estate firm in Paris. I was a bit unsure as to whether I found Carla to be wholly believable. She's one of those lonely hearts who somehow is sexually repressed. Her lack of confidence is explained by her handicap as well as constantly being made fun of by her co-workers. She is so stressed out that she ends up fainting on the job, which leads her boss (who unlike the intolerant co-workers) offers to hire an assistant for her. The arrival of the assistant, Paul, a parolee, is the film's inciting incident.

Carla begins her Act 2 journey tied to Paul, who makes it quite clear that office work just isn't his 'thing'. Carla at first plays hard to get with bad boy Paul due to that sexual repression. Even if you buy the idea that no-so-bad-looking Carla is clueless when it comes to men, she has no guilt feelings about moving up in the office hierarchy. Ironically, it's not the amoral Paul who urges her to come up with the idea of stealing a co-worker's file, leading to the co-worker's resignation--it's actually Carla herself! As a result, mousy little Carla is promoted from secretary to project manager. After Carla finds Paul a place to stay, an apartment under construction, owned by her firm—she makes it clear that she no longer has any fear of the fledging sociopath when boldly stating to him: "You owe me".

While Vincent Cassell is fairly convincing as Paul, the character could have used a bit more humor. He just was a little too one-note for me, although Cassell does well in establishing Paul as truly menacing. The rest of 'Read my lips' chronicles Carla's defection to the 'dark side' as she transforms herself into the amoral counterpart of her bad boy love interest. Carla's transformation takes place gradually—she puts on a sexy outfit but almost gets herself raped outside a nightclub, only to be saved by Paul who is now beginning to show a 'sensitive' side. Now it's Carla's turn to pay Paul back for his 'good deed' and agrees to hang out on a rooftop, clutching a pair of binoculars, and attempting to read the lips of Paul's new boss, Marchand, and his sleazy associates, so that Paul may discover if they're plotting a crime, which ultimately might give him a chance to rip them off.

While the whole idea that Carla is actually able to read the lips of people through binoculars seems a bit dubious, I was willing to suspend my disbelief with the hope that the second half of Act 2, your basic caper story, picked up. Some of it's clever, as a plane ticket apparently is the Macguffin here, with Carla breaking into Marchand's apartment and planting the ticket inside his coat—thus leading his associates to believe that Marchand has double crossed them, stealing their money and then apparently buying the ticket with plans to leave the country. As it turns out, it's Carla and Paul who have pulled off the heist and leave Marchand holding the proverbial bag. Not all of it's clear as Marchand and company attack each other off screen and we never get to learn who exactly is killed and who survives.

The film's denouement is a big letdown as it becomes clear that director Jacques Audiard's sympathies lie more with the criminal element than with a law abiding citizenry. At first one wonders if Audiard is merely presenting a film noir-like tale of an amoral couple 'getting away' with a crime without being punished. That works in a film like 'Chinatown', since the film's scenarists are not making a statement, approving of the amoral characters' behavior but merely chronicling a sordid verisimilitude. In 'Read my Lips', however, Audiard's 'Carla and Paul' have become the French version of 'Bonnie and Clyde'.

Carla finally casts off her sexual aversions and gets down with the bad boy at film's end. She's now united with Paul in flipping the bird at respectable society (remember Audiard feels that Carla is justified in her rebellion as the so-called 'respectable' members of society are the very people who made fun of her in the office because of her disability). Despite committing a crime, Audiard doesn't see this as such as bad thing, since after all, the victims here are much more unsavory than Carla and Paul (but do Carla and Paul really come off as completely untainted? I do seem to recall that Marchand's wife is unfairly used by Carla in this scheme, and is left at scene of the crime to face the wrath of either a betrayed husband or his vengeful partners in crime. Not very noble of either one of them!).

For those who don't understand why the parole officer appears in this film, I believe I can explain it. For Director Audiard, Paul's Parole Officer is the key to explaining the film's theme. All along, we're led to believe that the Parole Officer represents the good part of society—he's more like a social worker trying to help Paul (unlike the unmentionables who made fun of Carla back at the office). But when Paul and Carla 'run into' Paul at the film's climax, it's the Parole Office who is being led away by the police for killing his wife (in an apparent mercy killing). So now the ultimate symbol of the law abiding citizenry is an apparent murderer and the amoral protagonists (lonely heart Carla transformed into bad girl who joins already bad boy Paul) are actually charming waifs who have committed a wholly justifiable robbery.

One can only conclude that 'Read My Lips' ultimately devolves into a 'feel good' fairy tale of amoral criminals, whom Director Audiard clearly wants us to root for. You might be bewitched by Carla's transformation or the mechanics of Paul's heist scheme, but ultimately there's nothing admirable about the protagonists' sordid machinations.

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An in-depth analysis of the french labor market's situation and human psychology

Author: Nathan L from France
4 November 2012

"Sur mes lèvres" is the first Audiard's movie which gained national and international recognition : it depicted the relationship between two abnormal people, and how they interact with their direct environment, i.e. their work.

Audiard's movies are quite interesting and unique, as he is always using the same method : first acting as a sociologist, then as a psychologist. Finally, giving free thinking to the watcher.

In this very movie, we are first getting acquainted with the job's situation in France : quite open when it comes to communication (we've got a deaf and an ex-convict in the firm )but sclerosed when it comes to the issue of real equality.

The psychologic part begins when these two people are meeting : apart from their mutual attractiveness, something else is going on ; what ? you've got all your mind to think about it !

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