Sur mes lèvres (2001)

readmylipsDespite watching this a couple of weeks ago, I still have the DVD sitting here to remind me to write something about it. I’m not in the mood for a heavy analysis, though I wouldn’t be much use in describing its innovative use of sound or all the Hitchockian motifs sprinkled throughout. I just like watching and this movie is all about watching (and, in a certain sense, the problems that arise when you stop watching and actually interact with the world).

I mainly wanted to see this film because of the two actors involved. Vincent Cassel, despite his sometimes over-mugging face, has become quite the interesting role-taker. I first noticed him in the importantly praised La Haine, though most American film watchers only know him from his brief roles in the Oceans films.. This film was made right around the time he started to crossover into Hollywood, only to jump right back into mostly French features to his benefit and Hollywood’s loss.


Emmanuelle Devos is what makes this movie better than average. I’ve only seen her in a few films (Kings & Queen being another excellent performance), but I will watch anything she does.
I don’t know what it is, but she has that ability to convey more than one thing at a time in just making a face. She also has a very peculiar looking face, which is only made more beautiful in her acting to make it less so (I guess hers is one of those faces that strangely borders between exceptional beauty and not?).
As a hearing-impaired/deaf woman with a lack of social skills (for lack of a better way of describing it), she is required to play the role as an ostracized wallflower. The progression of the character from this to a more empowered, yet deeply co-dependent person is a fascinating characterization. There are stylistic choices made to accent this opening up, as with the increased use of color after a noticeable drab, earth-toned beginning…
The film offers a portrayal of a relationship between two people that is unique to most film stories. It may not be entirely believable to some viewers, but the filmmaking and acting do their best to cover this up.
Each of the characters is simply using the other to get what they want individually, yet they ultimately end up…..well that would spoil the film. Suffice to say, none of the characters are particularly sympathetic. Yet, the film explores an interesting overall premise in its depiction of the interaction between pairs of people throughout; whether it as friends, co-workers, lovers, in marriage or in crime.


I’m not sure what else I can say. I just wanted to add the film to the list here, in case anyone is looking for a recommendation.
As alluded to above, Hitchcock’s Rear Window is an obvious influence, but if we are genre-ripping, I would also maybe include Sam Fuller, with his more blatantly dysfunctional depictions of crime-fueled relationships.

Having also seen the director’s almost equally impressive character-based follow-up, The Beat My Heart Skipped (a remake of Fingers), I look forward to getting the chance to see Un prophète, which won the Grand Prix (2nd Prize) at this past Cannes Film Festival.


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