Imbued with barely contained contempt for the industry it profiles, “The Beauty Exchange” coolly examines the business surrounding the pursuit of the perfect female body. Flattering addition to socially responsible fests is too didactic for commercial play, but reps a fascinating cable and ancillary item.
Young helmer Erika Hnikova followed four Czech women over the course of a year as each pursued a glamour goal. Worker Eva wants breast surgery (Hnikova tries to talk her out of it), while student Karolina fills every inch of her apartment with cosmetics. Magda is a slave to dieting, while high schooler Zuzana becomes enmeshed in a brutal beauty pageant. Hnikova also explores local industry that has sprung up around beauty, from fashion mags to shopping malls. Onscreen price tags and economic stats flesh things out. Members of the Anarchofeminist Alliance actively oppose these trends. Though forceful, helmer’s approach generally avoids militancy. Incongruously, commercial DVD cover art sports the graphic of a headless nude woman clutching department store packages. Closing credits thank influential Czech helmers, among them ace documentarian Helena Trestikova. For the record, docu preemed in competition at the 2004 Pilsen fest.