Read My Lips Review
The story:Carla (Emmanuelle Devos) works as a secretary in a construction company. Despite almost having to run it at times, she's been constantly overlooked for promotion. Being the sole woman in a man's world has never been easy but when the opportunity arises for her to employ another secretary she chooses to employ Paul Angeli (Vincent Cassel). From the outset, he's a square peg in a round hole - he's evidently lied on his CV, can barely use a photocopying machine and is not the patient type - then again he's fresh out of jail and as much an outsider in this world as she is. A strange friendship quickly forms between them with Carla helping out as best she can. But is Paul going to stay at the office forever? How long will he be able to keep a job he so evidently detests? Will his previous life start to catch up with him?
Having started a career in editing, Audiard took a sideways move into scriptwriting and finally has ended up directing. His début Regarde Les Hommes Tomber featured the then unknown Matthieu Kassowitz and the veteran Jean-Louis Trintignant - he then used the same couple again in the excellent Un Héros Très Discret which asked the prickly question about how many so called members of the French Resistance joined in fact long after the war. Although filmed on quite a small budget, the film was a tremendous success in France in part due to the doubts that were raised at the time over Mitterand's activity in the resistance.
Taking on a story that could have wound up being a collection of clichés, Audiard has managed to once again use the most unlikely characters as leads - a brutish ex-convict and an uptight and confused secretary are not likely Hollywood heroes but in this case they work perfectly. The casting of Cassel, without doubt one of the most versatile actors about, and the less well-known Devos was crucial to the film's success: they form a truly interesting and believable couple of outsiders. The performances by the second roles is also excellent with Olivier Perrier, Olivia Benamy and Olivier Gourmet giving the film much more depth (and displaying a certain obsession for people with similar first names!).
His very clever use of sound in the opening sequences demonstrates from the outset that this is no standard thriller, helping us better imagine Carla's perspective and deservedly winning the César for best sound (French Oscar). The cinematography is once again inventive and makes great use of close-ups and steadicams. There's little in way of scene-setting keeping the viewer trying to keep their bearings but at least trying to push the envelope a bit further than most thrillers. The fact that Audiard takes the road less travelled in this area can upset some but in the end delivers an incredibly subtle film. Sadly the film didn't manage to find the success it so rightly deserved - it may not have an instant impact on first viewing but it certainly grows on you with repeated viewings.
The image:Given that the film is less than a year old, one could expect a very good transfer which is exactly what we get. The transfer sticks to the original sombre colour scheme and is excellent throughout. I didn't detect anything more than minor amounts of artifacting despite the presence of a multitude of dark scenes throughout. The transfer is anamorphic and in the correct aspect ratio of a 1.85:1. The colours have also kept that washed out feeling that was present in the cinema prints - a very good transfer...
The sound:An excellent soundtrack - given the nature of the film, a poor soundtrack would have betrayed the film as a whole. We're not disappointed here with a clear and crisp French 5.1 mix rich in basses and detail. The surround effects are used in the most tasteful manner never overplaying the scenes or encroaching on the action but effectively increasing the cinematic experience. Alexandre Desplat's excellent soundtrack is also well mixed in and never stands out incongruously.
The menus:Mimicing the photocopying machine, these are really stylish animated menus. Some may find the introduction to the menu and the transitions overlong but that is a minor quibble considering how well they fit in with the film.
The subtitles: We get a set of French subtitles and English subtitles. The English subtitles are made up of a very good translation and of decent size making them easy to read. Of course, they are not burnt-in and can be switched on and off on the fly.
The extras:Please note: none of the following are subtitled in English or in French.
Once again Pathé had given a decent amount of extras to get our teeth into. To kick off we get two commentaries - one with Jacques Audiard and another with Cassel and Devos. The actor's commentary is one of the best I've ever heard - they're evidently having great fun doing it coming it with joke upon joke without leaving the film and the technicalities behind - someone has to subtitle this and include it on the UK release... Cassel is the major talker coming up with a message to the French film producers "stop selling your rights to the Americans - try and have some confidence and release your films over there!" or gently poking fun at the director "I bust my balls putting in that silver tooth every single day and we never bloody saw it in the final cut!". In contrast, Jacques Audiard gives a relatively quiet but interesting commentary on the writing of the script, the changes they made and the filming process. His speech is much easier to comprehend than Cassel's (whose speech is like a machine gun) so if your French is limited this may be the best one to listen to.
Aside from these two commentaries,we also have in depth interviews with the co-writer (Tonino Benacquista) and the composer (Alexandre Desplat) - both transferred in fullscreen. Benacquista's interview is a tad overlong at 20 minutes and his speech is overhesitant at times but full of interesting details about the writing process. Desplat's is slightly shorter at 14 minutes but incredibly interesting with him revealing how early he was involved with the film and his use of the orchestra. The interviews are interspersed with clips from the film which is acceptable to illustrate a point but at times tends to make the interview seem overlong... Still these are excellent additions to the extras...
We then have 6 deleted scenes (including one with 5.1 sound) and an alternative end to peruse. The scenes mostly relate to 2 sub-plots that were later (thankfully!) abandoned - they do at least demonstrate that the director had the good taste of knowing when he should cut parts out of his script. A bit like some of the deleted scenes from In the Mood for Love, some may feel these scenes are best left unseen but at least they're there for those who wish to... Three of the scenes also include an optional audio commentary from Audiard talking about why he felt they should have been discarded. The image quality of these scenes is a poorer than the main feature but viewable - one scene is very good but a little grainy whilst all the others are very rough and grainy with a fair amount of digitalisation - I assume this was due to the fact they were discarded at a very early stage and therefore were not cleaned up. Also they are all correctly framed but only the one with 5.1 sound has been anamorphically transferred. Still their inclusion is welcome although image obsessives will have a field day with them...
To finish off all of this we get the quasi-compulsory filmographies, a photo gallery of about 40 stills from the set and the theatrical trailer. It's hard to flaw these extras - none of them feel like padding and they all really add to the DVD but a shame none of them are subtitled in French or in English.
Conclusions:One can only hope that the UK release will at least use some of the excellent extras present here - this is an outstanding release of another excellent film by Audiard. It's fantastic that the main feature had been subtitled in English but a slight shame the rest hasn't. Hopefully the rest of Audiard's work will be given as excellent a release in the near future. This one is an all in all excellent release and definately an alternative to the barebones UK release.