What to Rent

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In which Blue and White film savant Iggy Cortez gives you another reason to love the French. This week’s selection is Read My Lips.

If you, like many Columbia students, are waiting until the very last moment to fill out your tax returns, Jacques Audiard’s smart yet entertaining thriller-cum-noir, Read My Lips should provide both fun escapism from stress yet abundant incentive not to mess with money matters.

Emmanuelle Devos, one of France’s most talented and magnetic actresses, stars as Carla, a mousey, hearing-impaired secretary whose attempts to advance in a real-estate firm are continuously thwarted by sadistic colleagues. Afraid that she is overworked, her boss encourages her to find an assistant. Against all common sense, she hires Paul, played by Vincent Cassel (the charismatic bad boys of all charismatic bad boys), an ex-con with close to no qualifications except, perhaps, that he looks amazing unshowered and in a leather jacket. But all kindness comes at a price, and in return for the job, Carla convinces Paul to use his skills as a thief to steal a file from a colleague, a move that triggers an unlikely alliance between the two that is part survival, part sexual tension. Largely due to money he owes some thugs, the office life becomes too boring and not well paid enough for Paul, so when he devices a flawless plan to steal money from some Parisian gang lords, he co-opts Carla’s help, due to her secret talent for reading lips. Naturally, things don’t go as planned, and it is in the messiness of the detour that the film’s inventive and audacious plot-twists begin to grip our interest in a way Hollywood thrillers have long ceased to do.

While Read My Lips is not exactly earth-shatteringly profound, its merits are in meeting intelligence with sheer entertainment, in a manner free of gimmicks or sentimentality, yet not deprived of that wonderful duo of sex and violence. Audiard’s stylish directing is matched by a well-informed instinct in knowing when exactly to practice restraint, that not only saves his film from being like a pointlessly flashy videogame, but that also gives it its necessary, riveting tension. Inflected with just the right amounts of psycho-sexual character development to give it a certain weight and depth, Read My Lips is perfect viewing for when you feel like reveling in the viewer complicity the thriller demands, without feeling like you are turning into a vegetable.



  1. hmmm

    escapist pretentious french crap or kangaroo jack. i think the latter

  2. mk  

    that's a good point. watching 'read my lips,' i couldn't help but wonder where all the fart jokes were. damned french, with their tightly constructed screenplays, nuanced acting, and amazing aesthetic sense.

  3. question

    what does 'tightly' constructed screenplay, 'nuanced' acting and 'amazing' aesthetic sense mean tangibly in describing a movie? or are they just buzzwords which people use to try to legitimize their own subjective tastes? if the latters the case, then don't worry, i already think your cooler and more refined them me

    • mk  

      'tightly' constructed means that the screenplay leaves little room for events and actions that happen outside of the plot. basically, that everything fits together neatly without any unnecessary detours.

      'nuanced' acting means that the actors don't play in a one-dimensional way, but rather, get at the multiple aspects of their characters. their faces can express both tenderness and violence, for example.

      'amazing' aesthetic sense is certainly the most subjective of the three, but basically, i found it to be beautifully shot, with a very unique, gritty style that suited the subject matter very well.

      to a certain extent, these are all subjective notions, but to call them 'buzzwords' is a bit reductive, i think. to me, they seem like fairly valid ways to describe elements of film. are they subjective, sure, in the same way that every piece of criticism is, to some extent, the act of legitimizing one's own tastes, but that does not mean the language used in criticism should be rejected outright.

      also, kangaroo jack had a farting kangaroo in it.

  4. so you are  

    a closet kangaroo jack fan as well. as for the definitions---cheers for the reply---though i still disagree w/you on the merit of the ideas in the ways you've defined them..the formula for a good movie doesn't necessarily have to be very complex characters in a rigid storyline (and as you admit--aesthetic sense is the most subjective)...still i was just poking fun at the film, because lately a lot of the reccomendations seem to have been of similiar films (heck even herzog flicks get tired after a while)..

    i do generally share your affinity for multi-dimensional characters in well scripted movies/screenplays, even though others seem to like vapid movies which embody the opposite traits (how the heck is sin city so high in the imdb 250?)...

    how bout some more genre related finds by the resident movie critic? i demand the best hidden gem western/lancaster flick/etc.!

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