Caramel has a similar style to Barbershop, and before I get deluged with a number of angry individuals on both sides of the aisle, let me explain why. In both cases, the movie focuses in one a place of meeting where something aesthetically-related is being done. In both, there are different generations of individuals that discuss and talk, with the older generations providing information and knowledge to the younger generations. Specifically, though, there are some differences between the two films, and this is why I whole-heartedly enjoyed Caramel where I was not as big of a fan of Barber Shop (or its cousin, Beauty Shop).
Caramel is the first feature film by Nadine Labaki (who is known in Lebanon as a director of music videos by individuals such as Noura Rahal, Nancy Ajram, Carole Samaha, and Star Academy), and viewers will immediately see an interesting juxtaposition between the richness of the Beirut beauty salon and the worn down and bombed out outside world. The five women that are central to Caramel tackle problems and discuss issues that women (and even men) around the world will be able to identify with, with a set of issues ranging from forbidden love, sexuality, aging, and the like. I believe that it is this worldwide applicability that has made Caramel into such a success; filmed for well under the equivalent of two million dollars, it has recouped over twelve million dollars worldwide. Individuals that have seen Caramel on the foreign film circuit still need to pick up a copy of this DVD, as one bonus feature that is present really delves into the unique culture of Lebanon in ways that the film does not touch.
This bonus feature, an interview with Labaki eirself, gives individuals context for the film that will undoubtedly give individuals a chance to better appreciate the film. I donâ€™t find myself often attracted to these types of films, but the skillful writing of Labaki, coupled with the talent of all involved with the film, makes this into an immediate classic. If you like seeing how social groups, even informal ones such as the individuals that frequent a beauty salon, interact and evolve, make sure to pick up a copy of Caramel. Hopefully Labaki will continue to create films that are of this caliber and become better known as a household name in the U.S..
Caramel / 2008 Lionsgate / 93 Minutes / http://www.lionsgatedvd.com /