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Nadine Labaki's 'Caramel' is a typical girly film, a portrait of the lives and loves of the (female) staff and customers of a beauty salon. What makes it interesting (to a western European) is its setting: Beirut, and the mixture of universal themes and Lebanese culture. It's (mostly) nicely acted, but fundamentally, its mixture of female friendship and the dream of true love is not so different from a thousand other romantic dramas, and I failed to find much impact in its final conclusion when the leading character picks herself up after being dumped by having a haircut. The local colour ultimately flatters to deceive; this is a story could have been told anywhere.
I have just watched the movie at the theater. It is wonderful! For the
first time, there is a Lebanese movie that gives the correct image of
Lebanese women with all their contrasts. The main characters are very
well chosen to reflect the different demographic (and even religious)
factions of Lebanese women. The topics discussed are so sincere and
realistic. Lebanese movies have been always categorized in one of two
group : either movies about civil war, or some light and pointless
comedy. I congratulate Nadine labaky for creating a new genre of
Lebanese drama that depicts our realities.
You must see the movie!
When a foreign film manages to make that break across the border and garner international success there's often the expectation that it should act as an ambassador for its country of origin, especially when that nation is not known for its prolific cinematic output. But where does that leave Nadine Labaki's Lebanese romance Caramel? Can any film successfully walk that balance between the light-hearted and the weighty? Caramel may flirt with the anachronistic studio-era concept of being a 'woman's picture' but when the only current offering for strong female leads in cinemas sees entire platoons of the Boots 'here come the girls' set marching blindly into cinemas to watch four over-paid harridans bemoaning the lack of haute couture in Abu Dhabi there has never been a better time to discover the mature and believable view of romance purported by Caramel. Who says rom coms have to be dumb screen fodder? JB
The ammunition is there: a 'sweet' film revolving around several young
to middle aged women living their lives, warts 'n' all, in a film
entitled 'Caramel'. The dismissive headlines labelling the film syrupy
and sugar coated just write themselves. How pleasing then, that the
film is anything but; and acts as a stark eye-opener that films of this
ilk can come from certain parts of the world that are war torn and less
than brimming with a rich and popular film industry. In fact, Lebanese
film Caramel practically shelves the idea of a war-torn nation and
instead delves deep inside the nation with the city of Beruit
specifically cut open, laying bare the people within it. And not just
any people; five or so women of varying ages with varying problems and
facing varying situations. How refreshing that the film prefers to
detail woman-hood in this secluded and prior to this film, shut off
The first thing that strikes me after some further research is just how inexperienced the cast is. Perhaps this was deliberate from female director Nadine Labaki, who herself stars in the film. Perhaps she is aiming for one of those ultra-realistic portrayals of life within by enlisting nobody actors essentially hired to play themselves as women of the nation, age and consequently generation that they are. The women in question are Layale (Labaki), who works in a beauty salon along with two other women, Nisrine (Al Masri) and Rima (Moukarzel). The situations each respective women face are that Layale is stuck in a dead-end relationship with a married man; Nisrine has already slept with a man but is set to be married within the Arab world, in which pre-marital sex is not accepted while Rima is finding herself more and more attracted to women.
What I find quite fitting given these characters and the consequent breaking down of imagery is the fact that early on, one character looks at themselves in a mirror within the beauty parlour, and makes a fuss over how 'pretty' she's supposed to look. It's this recognition of what people are 'supposed' to be or how the world demands they look when, in actual fact, free choice and individuality should rule over anything else. We are, after all, looking at characters who are either: attracted to the same gender as they are; have gone against ancient tradition by having sex before marriage with the other one daring to threaten already established relationships by being attracted to another married man.
So the study, and the identification of it, is put across very early on and in sly, rather comic fashion. From here, the film branches out into what is essentially a brooding drama with subtle hints of romance. This is no definitive genre piece with a specific arc, more a statement or a documentation of lives lived in a specific place by those whom should know what it's like to live them. The sense of authority is most definitely prominent. A policeman gives someone a parking ticket, but is challenged and struggles somewhat by the woman that does so; someone else is pulled over for not wearing a seat-belt and two people are arrested for sitting in a car talking to one another. Two things crop up here: firstly, the director's sense that this is a minute study of a specific subject and the sense that everything comes under the light for examination, even the smallest things as would-be contemporary women living in Lebanon are broken down. Secondly, the sense of a dominant force a presence that will clamp down on you in this life if you so much as ever so slightly slip up.
But director Nadine Labaki is so assured of her subject matter and her overall project, she sprinkles in supporting characters in the shape of Jamale (Aouad), a regular customer at the salon who dreams of being an actress as well as Rose (Haddad), a tailor with a shop next to the salon, who is an old woman that has devoted her life to taking care of her mentally unbalanced older sister Lili (Semaan). These characters are developed to their own degree, Lili and Rose in particular acting as members of an 'older guard', or generation gone by now practically restricted to their indoor place of work, as they meet and greet a Frenchman that frequents their place of business on a regular basis.
Layal, throughout this film, practically looks like Penelope Cruz's character out of 2006 effort Volver; a film that Caramel shares themes and ideas with. She hits upon the idea of using actual caramel as a wax; as a means of stripping away what is required. It is, indeed, the title of the film and acts somewhat neatly as the analogy for the film. That is, that the caramel is used to strip away certain things and the 'Caramel' that is the film acts as a stripping away of layers allowing us to look at contemporary Lebanese women. Caramel is an observed film; a film that creeps up on you in its study and leaves a nicely nourished feeling afterwards.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Caramel is a sweet movie, about women, for women. It shows the tone of
contemporary Lebanese society, which is similar to what other parts of
the Mediterranean were like some 50 years ago - obviously Lebanon is
more conservative than Europe or the US.
I liked the characters, but had a hard time understanding the demented relative, who spoke very fast - I was also surprised that so much French is still spoken in Lebanon. The main character's affair with a married man seemed a bit old-fashioned, but at the end she gets rid of him, which is good.
There is attention to the small details in this movie which make watching it very enjoyable. Things like a teenage son telling his father on the phone that his mother was next door smoking marijuana - which is not true - or the female hairdresser with a crutch on a female client, lovingly washing the client's hair - several times a week.
Funniest of all was the Muslim wedding, where the family hired musicians and dancers with swords - obviously there are no colorful Bedouins running around anymore, so you have to hire "folk" dancers to provide a traditional Arab wedding.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've never feel like i wanna cry after every 10 minutes in any movie the casting seems so familiar with each others no one can deny that it feels like they are friends in the true life and choosing the characters was so carefully and smarted and it shows how the director are so talented even though its the first movie for the him the musics are so great and touches over all the movie had feelings that it never appeared in a movie before , afeelings that it takes you so far to be inside the movie live with it and i think this movie deserve to be nominated to Oscar and i feel that it has no mistake at all i loved it so much, great story great caste great songs great director great movie.
Lebanon's own version of "sex in the city" the movie! Excellent story
line and execution. It is amazing how everyday people actors can
perform flawlessly in front of a camera - then again, maybe it's just
real life! It appears that Lebanese Cinema have come a long way since
"bint Al Hares" and other small flashes in the pan. I am glad to see
that Ms. Labaki has broken away from the Egyptian influence in cinema
and created a true Lebanese flavor and culture on the large screen. I
wonder what's next for this young talent? Could it be that Ms. Labaki
will memorialize some chapters of the Lebanese Struggle for
independence from the grip of the Syrian evil hold on the country and
its citizenry?! time will tell.
Kudos to Ms. Labaki
The director, as a spider, weaves a range of sensations and poignant
performances that raise the feelings of the spectator to limits
From now , the life of the Lebanese woman is not seen the same way by Western man.
In this masterpiece we are not with a story but with five stories of women who had to be called heroes. Each more exciting than the other, making us see the true face of a world not so far away.
But in the movie will not find just one type of movie, but several. Drama and comedy are crossed with such smoothness that slashing perfection.
The interpretation of these beautiful women are so good that they can hardly criticize anything.
This movie should be in the top 5 for every good cinema lover
i watched this movie last night, it's a sweet movie presenting a very
expressive picture comprising a lot of good elements: lighting, colors,
music and of course acting. the movie takes place in a beauty salon
where we meet 4 of our main 5 heroines, they work as hairdressers and
spend most of the time together so we come to see their high and low
moments. in a near by tailoring shop lives the fifth heroine, a lady in
her fifties together with her funny, a little bit, crazy mom.
each of the 5 heroines has her own story which gives an example for a wider range of Lebanese women. we've a girl who's about to get married but lost her virginity and finally finds a solution in a surgery, another who desperately dreams of becoming an actress and relentlessly seeks casting tests, she also stands at the gates of old age but tries to fool herself and others by pretending to belong to a younger category. besides, there is another homosexual girl , whose appearance, attitude tells of her sexual orientation. yet we just see a covert indication of a mutual admiration between her and one of the salon's clients. may be if she found a true love in her life she wouldn't have gone that way, who knows.
then comes my favorite character in the movie which is the old dressmaker who finds a chance, may be her final chance, for love with one of her male clients. as usual, she hesitates to take the chance. this reaction emphasizes the Arab world's attitude towards old women, those past 50. the society harshly denies ladies of this category their right to love , to take the last train for happiness before life comes to an end , it imprisons them within the memories of the past and monotony of the present.
finally comes the character played by the actress/director/scriptwriter Nadine Labky. Layal is the leader of the salon team and falls in love with a married man. on the other hand, there's the policeman who works in the street where her salon is located and has a crush on her. yet, she is so involved in her relationship with that married guy, who seems not to care much about her, that she fails to notice the one who really cares.
I find Nadine to be the best actress of the whole group with her oriental features and deep eyes. as a director, she managed , together with the music and the lighting, to create an atmosphere of warmth and intimacy - that of a girlish world filled with laughs, tears , happiness and pain. besides the movie shows the wonderful unity and coexistence between people from various religious and social backgrounds.
however, i find Nadine the writer not as good as the actress or director. the movie could have been much much deeper and more effective. i believe the seeds of each character were well sown but they weren't given the suitable circumstances to grow maturely. the movie is sweet but shallow when it comes to character building.
I watched this film for one reason = it gives the viewer a look at life
The story is innocent it is about a woman who owns a beauty shop Si Belle and the 3 other women who work in the shop.
It has humor and also details various problems they are having in their lives... a non virgin getting married...a older one who wants to be an actress. And the main character who is having an affair with a married policeman.
It is not exceptionally good or bad...however the crazy old lady got on your nerves after awhile.
Watch it for the reason I did only.
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