Read My Lips | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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A classic premise of film noir--a virtuous woman drawn to a man with a shady past--gets a postfeminist update in this carefully scripted French thriller by Jacques Audiard. A mousy, hearing-impaired secretary (Emmanuelle Devos), abused by the men at work and envious of a friend's sexual adventures, hires a soulful ex-convict (Vincent Cassel) as her assistant, and he proves as useful to her as she does to him. To their credit, Audiard and coscreenwriter Tonino Benacquista present her gradual corruption not as a source of peril but as a personal liberation, and while the intimate relationship at the center of the film approximates romantic love, it's defined less by affection than by the characters' complementary skills and needs. The tense climax stretches the story's credibility to the breaking point, but for the most part this is noir of an exceptionally high caliber, its sequence of events revealing two complicated and compromised people. The film won Cesars for best actress, best screenplay, and best sound; the last, by Marc-Antoine Beldent, cannily exploits extremes of quiet and noise for narrative effect. In French with subtitles. 115 min. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Pipers Alley.

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