(aka 'Sukkar banat ')
France / Lebanon 2007
Take sugar, water and lemon
juice, mix it up and you’ve got Beirut’s favourite depilatory product, a sticky
goo which removes feminine hair, though not without a certain struggle. Such is
the eponymous ‘Caramel’ in actor-writer-director Nadine Labaki’s delightful
first feature, an ensemble drama that explores the secret world of a Lebanese
beauty parlour where the women struggle to make the best of a society which so
often limits their options.
In surroundings of faded would-be glamour, Lebanon’s bloody recent history and religious tensions barely get much of a look-in, since the film prioritises personal intrigues, played out by a largely non-professional cast (the mad old ladies next door are particular treasure) who bring an impeccable authenticity to the proceedings. Labaki’s direction favours an affectionate amble: her screenplay throws up few genuine surprises, yet this is, frankly, a lovely film. Insisting on the bittersweet buzz of tiny female victories in the fraught milieu she describes as ‘my Beirut’, it’s lovingly shaped and deeply felt, a happy-sad charmer which deserves a wide audience.
Theatrical Release: May 20th, 2007 - Cannes Film Festival
DVD Review: Lions Gate - Region 1 - NTSC
|DVD Box Cover||
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|Distribution||Lions Gate - Region 1 - NTSC|
Average Bitrate: 7.44 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
|Audio||Arabic (Dolby Digital 5.1), Arabic (Dolby Digital 2.0)|
|Subtitles||English, Spanish, None|
with director Nadine Labaki (5:46)
Firstly on the film - I think it's a valid piece of work but I honestly was not in the mood and struggled to finish it. It has some definite feminine charm and gentility but I just could not succumb. Part of my resistance could have stemmed from this transfer which is decidedly weak. It is interlaced and may also be from an unconverted PAL standard source as the theatrical running time is stated on IMdb as being about 1:35:00 where this is about 4% faster at 1:31:00. I can't be sure on this point until I have another edition to compare it too - but regardless the image is quite soft and hazy - particularily for such a modern film. Colors are not especially vibrant. Funny, I believe there is a Blu-ray in France (HERE) of Caramel. The cinematography has some striking moments that might transfer well in 1080P but this Lions Gate SD is a far cry from presenting that with any depth. It is clean, dual-layered and anamorphic in around the 1.85 ratio. However the non-progressive is very noticeable and the disc is coded for region 1 in the NTSC standard.
Audio has a fairly wasted 5.1 track as the film is almost entirely dialogue driven. I don't recall hearing a peep out of the rears but the option is there as is a 2.0 channel choice. There were a couple of interesting cultural songs performed by Racha Rizk. Ghastly yellow font subtitles (with black border) are available in English or Spanish (see sample below).
Supplements include a 6 minute interview with the director Labaki - a charming gal who seems a bit surprised at her success. There is also a theatrical trailer and adverts for some other Lions Gate products.
Despite my respect for the film I think this Lions Gate DVD is overpriced at $20. Not much effort seems to have been put into the transfer or extras and I may actually compare an alt-region version one day - I'll make the not-so-bold assumption that it will be superior. Catch the film if you can - its worth a viewing, but we say pass on this particular DVD offering.