Fri, Nov 15, 2002 - Page 18 News List

Audiard rejects art house

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

Emmanuelle Devos.

PHOTO: TAI LI-AN, TAIPEI TIMES

Jacques Audiard and Emmanuelle Devos, the director and female lead of the film Read My Lips, which was selected as the closing film for the Golden Horse Film Festival, arrived in Taipei this week. Devos shattered expectations when she won the Caesar Award for best actress this year against Audrey Tautou, who was regarded as a shoe-in for the award after the runaway success of Le Fabuleux destin d'Amelie Poulain.

At a press conference Wednesday, Li Kang (李崗), president of Zeus International Productions, which has brought the film to Taiwan for commercial release, said that his company is shifting its focus to European films "because so much of what is coming out of Hollywood is so bad."

Li emphasized that while many people still associate any French films with art house cinema, Read My Lips is unashamedly a commercial product that he hopes will appeal to a wide audience.

Audiard described the film as an "unconventional love story." Devos plays a frumpy secretary with a hearing disability. She is an ace lip reader, and knows a great deal more about what is going on around her than her colleagues suspect. She is anything but glamorous, and the shifty ex-con she hires as an office assistant isn't particularly attractive either. Neither one of them is a nice person, but the people around them are even worse. Devos and her associate get involved in a dangerous caper in which her ability to lip read is used to good effect. The whole thing is very understated and noir, the kind of intelligent thriller that Hollywood seems to have lost the ability to make.

Read My Lips has received excellent reviews, with more than one critic commenting on the refreshing lack of moralizing that often mars US products. Neither of the lead characters are particularly sympathetic, but at the same time they are fighting with the inadequate tools at their disposal to survive in a vicious world. This gritty quality gives the film a conviction that makes its other conceits believable.

Read My Lips will be released in Taiwan on Jan. 11.

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