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Read My Lips (Sur Mes Levres)
Now playing at the Paris Theater

First World War II… now this? When will the French stop sucking so much?

What with being outside at barbeques and such all last weekend, I've had a nasty bought of chapped lips lately. Sometime, about halfway through Read My Lips, I was absently using my teeth to pick at an unusually large piece of dead-lip-skin that was dangling seductively from my lower pouter. Eventually, in frustration and annoyance, I tore off the offending chuck. While I absently tongued the tender spot where the skin had hung, now slightly metallic in taste from a drop of blood that was oozing out, I realized that I was so bored with this movie I was literally chewing my lips off.

Somewhat ironic, I thought, considering the title.

The Pros

The score is haunting and chilling and very tense. The sound editing, also, is very clever. Carla (Emmanuelle Devos), our heroine, is almost completely woman, and frequently when she removes her hearing aids, the sound is cut, so that we might hear exactly what she hears. This works really well at times, to build both empathy and tension. Especially chilling is the moment when you, and she, hear a methodical series of dull thuds, like a heavy Drum-N-Bass beat. As she fumbles for and eventually activates the hearing aids, the sounds transform into what is unmistakably a man being severely beaten directly outside of her bathroom stall.

The acting is impressive. There are no powerhouse performances that stir you to tears, but there are some very real portrayals of very simple, straightforward characters (which, one might argue can be even more difficult). However, as a man cannot sustain himself on popcorn and Sprite indefinitely, no movie can ride for long with only the music and the acting alone.

The Cons

This was supposed to be a good movie. It had all the workings of a good movie. The accessories that make up this movie are strong and solid. By 'accessories' I mean the necklace that is the acting, the saucy red high-heels that are the editing and cinematography, the well primped hair that is the directing, and the cute little black dress that is the music. Unfortunately the girl that is the movie is dull and uninteresting. You stop caring about her, or her characters or her dilemma within half-an-hour and start waiting for a climax that never happens.

The music, the camera work, the pace of the film, the acting, all of these contribute to an extremely high, almost visceral tension. However the plot makes no call for any of this. What is billed as a nail-biting, pins and needles thriller, is really nothing more than a fairly lame heist movie. While the tension is fabulously built, there's no justifiable reason for it. An hour into the movie you realize that you're scared, but there is nothing to be scared of.

That's when you realize how bored you are and start chewing on your lips.


The Ratings (out of a possible four)

Acting: 3 Dames Judi Dench
The only real acting job of note is by Emmanuelle Devos, Vincent Cassell hold his own, but never manages to push his character beyond the 2-dimensions of the ex-con. She carries this movie well, however, and portrays a complex, plain-looking, unhappy-but-not-depressed, mid-twenties woman deftly and with terrific grace.

Tension: 3 ½ Rolly-Polly Hitchcocks
If this had actually been the thriller it was hyped to be, if there had been one scary or startling turn to the plot, it would have been excellent. Audirad knows how to make the audience squirm with anticipation and nervousness; he just doesn't know how to justify it.

Boredom: 4 pills. Little, Blue, Different, Valium!
And to think I chose this over Lovely and Amazing.

Overall: 1 ½ Lips, unreadable because I've chewed them off my face.
Well… Read My Lips is better than Star Wars Episode II, Attack of the Clones. I guess that's something…. Isn't it?

--Carter Edwards





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