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Caramel

Pic is a sweet affair, hiding any bitter undertones under a sprightly, glistening exterior.

With:
With: Nadine Labaki, Yasmine Al Masri, Joanna Moukarzel, Gisele Aouad, Adel Karam, Sihame Haddad, Aziza Semaan, Fatme Safa, Dimitri Stancofski, Fadia Stella, Ismail Antar. (Arabic dialogue)

As the name suggests, “Caramel” is a sweet affair, hiding any bitter undertones under a sprightly, glistening exterior. Fresh from commercials and musicvids, novice helmer (and star) Nadine Labaki gathers five women around a Beirut beauty salon to address a range of issues facing Lebanese women — from extramarital affairs to religious dictates. Low on calories and not especially original but always diverting, pic should do great biz at home, though France may be its only Western market.

Layale (Labaki) is at the tail end of an affair, her breaking heart supported by salon colleagues Nisrine (Yasmine Al Masri) and Rima (Joanna Moukarzel). Latter is awakening to lesbian desires, while Nisrine opts for minor surgery before her wedding so it appears she’s still a virgin. Client Jamale (Gisele Aouad) can’t face aging and seamstress Rose (Sihame Haddad) wants to accept love but her elderly, half-crazy sister Lili (Aziza Semaan) needs constant attention. Helmer lightly addresses problems of hypocrisy in both Christian and Muslim communities, emphasizing a common female bond beyond beauty treatments. Labaki extracts surprisingly fine, natural perfs from non-pros, often bathed in a golden light in keeping with the title.

Caramel

Lebanon-France

Production: A Les Films des Tournelles (France)/Les Films de Beyrouth (Lebanon)/Roissy Films (France)/ Sunnyland (Lebanon)/Arte France Cinema (France) production, with the participation of Fonds Sud Cinema, Ministere de la Culture et de la Communication, Centre National de la Cinematographie, Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres (France), Agence de la Francophonie. (International sales: Roissy Films, Paris.) Produced by Anne-Dominique Toussaint. Directed by Nadine Labaki. Screenplay by Labaki, Jihad Hojeily, Rodney Al Haddad.

Crew: Camera (color), Yves Sehnaoui; editor, Laure Gardette; music, Khaled Mouzanar; production designer, Cynthia Zahar; costume designer, Caroline Labaki. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 20, 2007. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: With: Nadine Labaki, Yasmine Al Masri, Joanna Moukarzel, Gisele Aouad, Adel Karam, Sihame Haddad, Aziza Semaan, Fatme Safa, Dimitri Stancofski, Fadia Stella, Ismail Antar. (Arabic dialogue)

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