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Caramel [Blu-ray] [Alemania]
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TV-Norm: HDTV 1080p. Sprachversion: Arabisch DD 5.1, Deutsch DD 5.1
Fünf Frauen auf der Suche nach einem kleinen Stück vom großen Glück.
Sie treffen sich regelmäßig in einem Schönheitssalon, um sich über ihr Leben und die Liebe auszutauschen. Der Laden, betrieben von der schönen Layale, bildet den farbenfrohen, sinnlichen Mikrokosmos der Stadt. Zwischen Haarschnitt und Kosmetikbehandlungen vertrauen sich die fünf Frauen ihre verborgensten Wünsche und tiefsten Geheimnisse an. Layale liebt einen verheirateten Mann und bemerkt gar nicht, dass sie einen Verehrer hat, der alles für sie tun würde. Nisrine wird demnächst heiraten, aber sie ist schon lange keine Jungfrau mehr. Rima verliebt sich in einen Kunden des Schönheitssalons und Jamale hat furchtbare Angst vor dem Älterwerden. Die Schneiderin Rose lebt für ihre kranke Schwester, doch mit dem Gentleman Charles tritt zum ersten Mal die Liebe in ihr Leben. Hin- und hergerissen zwischen der Tradition des Ostens und der Moderne des Westens versuchen die fünf Frauen auf ihre Weise ihr Lebensglück zu verwirklichen...
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The largely unknown cast is superb and each deserves specific mention:
NADINE LABAKI plays LAYALE - the sexy yet scatterbrained 35-year old owner of "Si Belle" - a salon that acts as emotion-central for co-workers and girlfriends. Layale is having a giddy but demeaning affair with a married man whom we never see except as a shadow in a car under a bridge - or hear him - as he honks his horn outside the premises for her to come running...
YASMINE AL MASRI plays NISRINE - one of Layale's best workers - the beautiful and young Nisrine is having doubts about her forthcoming marriage to BASSAM a headstrong modern man played by ISMAL ANTAR. Bassam is a man who will take on the oppressive state and even God rather than capitulate; Nisrine's also worried that Bassam might not want her should he find out about her less-than-virginal past
GISELE AOUAD plays JAMALE TARABAY - a customer and friend of the younger ladies. Jamale's mid to late 40's, an actress who is getting too old to nab the lucrative advert roles anymore and goes to sad and desperate lengths to stay young-looking.
JOANNA MOUKARZEL plays the slightly butch RIMA - a lowly washer of hair in the saloon who falls silently and breathlessly in love with a beautiful woman who walks in off the street one afternoon. She is played by FATME SAFA - and may even share with shy Rima the love that dares not speaks its name...
SIHAM HADDAD plays the stoical and ceaselessly loving ROSE (Rima's 60+ Aunt) who lives across the street from the salon in her haberdashery business. LILI, her even older sister (played to stunning perfection by AZIZA SEMAAN) is a mouthy old curmudgeon who picks up bits of paper off the streets and tells everyone there's a plane coming to take her and her lover away. Rose is driven to despair by Lili's increasingly difficult senility until one day a gentleman caller comes in for a suit alteration. His name is CHARLES played by a debonair DIMITRI STANCOFSKY - Charles says little, but his kind and warm glances reawaken a tenderness in Rose she'd long thought gone - and of course poses her with a horrible family conundrum....
ADEL KARAM plays YOUSSEF the parking-ticket Policeman who longs for Layale from a distance, but she is too busy screwing up her life to notice. Youssef is handsome, decent and right for her, if only Layale would stop sticking her tongue out at him...
FADIA STELLA plays the redheaded and lovely CHRISTINE KHOURI, wife of Rahid, the feckless husband we never see. She comes calling to "So Beautiful" for a free waxing one afternoon after a phone-call the previous day to her home by a sappily desperate Layale. Or perhaps Christine's there to size up the threat to her marriage and her lovely young daughter...
There are many other cameos and they're all excellent.
Nadine Labaki - the principal actress and director - co-wrote the script with RODNEY EL HADDAD and JIHAD HOJEILY. It's her 1st film and she could easily have shirked the undeniable downside of their world in order to make the film a more palatable package for Western viewers - but she doesn't. The eternal shame heaped on women by virtue of religious guilt in all things that they do - the double standards of the authorities - the legacy of war lingering malevolently in the background - all of is subtly woven into crucial scenes. Their lives are not given to you in a preachy or clichéd manner, but in a way that shows you just what a Middle Eastern woman has to cope with nowadays. They laugh like us, they cry, they triumph, they make their mistakes, take stock, get back up again - and try their damnedest to be modern in a world inextricably tied into a two-thousand year old past. Family acts as the bedrock - friends are cherished - and love - like in every society - is the simple and deeply sought after goal for all. It's a positive and refreshing film and a view of Beirut city life that you just don't ever see.
The script is full of deftly insightful stuff too - scenes that are just so funny, tender, sad, romantic: the kid under the family dinner table looking up Nisrine's skirt because she and Bassam were playing touchy-feely legs and he knows the woman can't rat him out; the tenderness between Charles and Rose as he quietly sugars her tea in his apartment after she's returned his altered gentleman's trousers; Jamale sat on a toilet using a bottle of ink on tissue paper to feign her still having youth; Rima's lovely face as she falls in love, softly washing the long flowing jet-black hair of a stunningly beautiful customer in the lean-back sink...her huge brown eyes as she looks back up at Rima....and smiles...
To effortlessly move from the old-world respect of the elderly couple to the sensual playfulness of the young lesbians in the salon is fantastic writing.
"Caramel" blew me away - it made me ache for these good people and their hopes and aspirations and dreams. But if you want real persuasion, there are FOUR nomination references on the DVD's rear sleeve, one of which is the WINNER of the AUDIENCE AWARD at the "San Sebastian Film Festival". Not the critics - not the industry insiders - the 'audience' award. That public knew a winner when they saw one.
Joy, pride and heart went into the making of this little foreign film (called "Sukkar Banat" in some territories) - and as the credits role and Nadine Labaki's dedication tells you the movie is "For My Beirut" - it's hard not to be impossibly moved.
Put "Caramel" high on your rental/to buy list. And then make a beeline for Mira Nair's "The Namesake" - another peach of a movie - cut with the same tenderness and grace.
PS: the title of this review is a lyric from a love song sung by Rima at Nisrine's wedding
The film shows us a Lebanon we rarely see. The setting is a Beirut beauty salon La Belle owned by Layale (Nadine Labaki) whose frequent absences from her place of business are due to trysts with a married man, trysts often delayed by a police officer, the handsome and infatuated Youssef (Adel Karram). Working in the shop is Rima (Johanna Moukarzel) whose same sex infatuation with a beautiful patron is subtly explored, and regulars in the salon include an aging wannabe actress Jamale (Gisèle Aouad), a non virgin bride to be Nisrine (Yasmine Elmasri) and an older seamstress Rose (Sihame Haddad) who has elected to relinquish her hopes for love with a willing and potential elderly man Charles (Dimitri Staneofski) in favor of continuing to care for her humorously senile mother Lili (Aziza Semaan).
How these unforgettable characters interact, displacing each other's anxieties by caring friendship freely shared, offers each of these fine actresses many moments of glory in addition to creating a fine ensemble effect as sensitively directed by Nadine Labaki. This little film (in Arabic and French with subtitles) is a complete pleasure and will likely draw attention to future films from Lebanon. Grady Harp, July 08
From 1975 onward, Beirut became a metaphor for hell on earth, especially in the US. "Don't go there!" was the State Department's advice, and most westerners, not only never went but didn't take the time to learn anything about Lebanese society or the culture that surrounds it. The expertly written, acted, and directed film Caramel gives viewers a glimpse of what Lebanese women endure in a culture that, on the surface at least is surprisingly westernized, and at the same time struggling with the transition from time-honored traditions to a state of modernity more recognizable to Americans.
The setting is the seedy Si Belle beauty shop, with the letter B upside down on its sign-- emblematic of the upside down secret lives of its dwellers. The shop is where a coterie of women, both stylists and customers have coincidently gathered and formed a support group to help each other cope with the strictures of Lebanese society. The beauty shop is an excellent vehicle for the story line because it is a place where women literally and figuratively let their hair down. The cultural taboos, real or imagined, of ageing, virginity, adultery, being single, and homosexuality, are all examined through the lives of the script's characters. Viewers can't help but become sympathetic to, if not empathetic with, the plight of each of the players.
Nadine Labaki is not only the shining star Layale, but also co-screenwriter and director of Caramel. She is joined with a sterling cast of actors who glide effortlessly from scene to scene. The directorial pacing is superb, as the camera never lingers needlessly along the journey to emancipation--or resignation--of each of the characters. The symbolism embodied in the pain of seeking physical beauty by ripping out unwanted body hair by the roots seems to also represent the painful journey from tradition to modernity. In one scene, even the policeman Youssef, after being treated to a depilation by the ladies of the salon, walks out with a goofy smile, liberated by the experience.
The shop owner Layale is smitten with a married man and runs to him whenever he calls or condescendingly honks his horn. The forbidden love, which is winked at for men in this patrimonial culture, must be hidden by women from family and society. Our heroine is at once rebellious and conforming--she consents to an affair but doesn't want her parents to hear the surreptitious phone calls that she always initiates, and parks with her paramour in forbidden places.
Although the women are rebellious and wish to adopt western mores, they continually lapse into roles that society has typecast for them. For example they tell Rose the seamstress that they need to find a husband for her. They even chide the obviously masculine Rima that she should wear skirts and put her legs through a waxing ordeal. So, for all their yearning for freedom from the reactionary elements of their culture, they have become its prisoners.
There was a great deal of symbolism in many of the scenes. When seamstress Rose is fitting her customer Charles, he seems to be performing a dance for her with his arms needlessly raised in a sign of surrender. When Layale passes the cop who has been giving her tickets, she sticks her tongue out at him in a rebellious gesture. She refuses to wear the seatbelt because it "suffocates" her, an obvious parallel with the suffocating rules of society. And when she poses as a prostitute, the ultimate debasement for a woman, to get a hotel room for an assignation, she reaches bottom in the relationship and proceeds to scrub the room from top to bottom as if to cleanse her soul. Finally, when her lover doesn't show, she breaks the celebratory balloons, seemingly signaling the end of the romance.
The above-mentioned taboos were adroitly examined and a resolution of sorts for each character, except Jamale and Rose, culminates in the wedding scene. Sadly, the ageing actress continues the charade of pre-menopausal youth, and Rose resigns herself to taking care of her sister Lili instead of pursuing a last-chance affair with Charles. The old Lebanese tradition of hanging out the bloody wedding bed sheets was alluded to with the suggestion to the non-virginal Nisrene that she substitute the blood of two mourning doves. When the "restored" bride, tosses her wedding bouquet, a dove passes overhead and drops dung on Layale's forehead, signaling a baptism of sorts so the born-again woman can now pursue true romance.
This film deserves five stars and is recommended for audiences who wish to be entertained while learning about a culture that they have ignored or been woefully misinformed about.
I would venture to say it is largely the struggles of Lebanese women, and this film carried many messages to them, messages of new beginnings and inspiration to press on through troubles they all endure as a society. The setting, a parlor is an excellent setting where the female characters interact and reveal their personal struggles. This movie goes further to show that although each character is of different age groups, of different (religious) backgrounds and show ultimately different (yet in ways similar) challenges, they each remain friends, bonded and supportive, defying any expected barriers as a result of differing backgrounds. Caramel touches on each obstacle that meets with all sorts of Lebanese women this way, from choosing the love of your family over love for yourself and for others( as demonstrated by the noble Rose) to loving yourself enough to respect your destiny (as demonstrated by the main character). Many themes are explored and my personal favorite was Jamale (a character who reminded me of someone I know) who to the very end remained the most tragic figure of them all due to her unwillingness to accept her age, opposing it to the extent of living a sorrowful lie, a life she knows is a lie and whose truth plagues her with fear of exposure and with deep resentment. She never learned to embrace change and allowed change to alter who she was. If only Jamale learned to embrace who she had become and to love herself despite the demands of a biased society, she would live in truth and the heartache of dreams that don't belong to her would not have been among her list of plagues. She shares this theme with another character, the theme of lying to either yourself or to someone dear to you. In the end, a false life only tastes sweet as long as you hold your nose to mask the bitter flavor of the reality you've created for yourself.
And so golden sunset light was suitable for a bittersweet film such as this. That the despair of a setting sun may be true but the promise of a new day are a night away. The messages are all themes of learning to better love, whether it be love for yourself, the truth, or another. And to live free with an open mind, and heart.
Highly recommended and highly deserving film.