Wash & wax
Nadine Labaki (click to enlarge)
Most of it takes place in a beauty salon run by Layale, played by the remarkable Nadine Labaki, who also directed. This is her first film as director, and she may have been inspired by Tonie Marshall’s Vénus beauté (institut) (1999), which is another movie I’ve seen perhaps more times than I should. Labaki’s film can be viewed as a portrait of young Lebanese women slipping away from certain traditions while holding on to others. Marshall’s film seemed to me more about age — Nathalie Baye as an older beautician than her coworkers; Mathilde Seigner stuck in adolescent impulse; and twenty-two-year-old Audrey Tautou finding an eager sugar daddy in seventy-two-year-old Robert Hossein. (There’s a terrific sex scene between those two.)
In Caramel, the scenario, co-written by Labaki, Rodney El Haddad and Jihad Hojeily, follows Layale’s disastrous relationship with a married man and her chilly encounters with his wife (Fadia Stella); the younger Nisrine (Yasmine Elmasri), soon to be married; Jamale (Gisèle Aouad), desperate to hold on to youth; and, in my favorite part, Rima (Joanna Moukarzel) and her quiet hair washing sessions with Siham (Fatmeh Safa and her yards and yards of silky black hair). The caramel of the title? It’s used for waxing, and I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there that’ll hit me at two in the morning. For the moment, however, I’ll gladly make due with the sensuality of this delicate film.