Thursday, April 10, 2008


I’m Baaaaa-aaaaack!

Cayman was beyond fantabulous, but I’m also very excited to be in Montreal. In very, very, VERY happy news (at least for me), the weather now seems to be firmly entrenched in the pluses (as in, not freezing) and most of the snow has melted. Hurrah! I even pulled out the old trenchcoat this morning, dusted it off, and wore it out with a pair of pretty autumn./spring boots.

I’ve officially survived my first Canadian winter in years. This warrants a pause.


Okay, now I can tell you about the first Lebanese chick flick I’ve ever seen. It’s called Caramel and it was Lebanon’s official selection for this year’s Academy Awards. Caramel is the French expression used to translate sukkar banaat, the sugary concoction Arab women have been using for millennia (and continue to use, even though it hurts like a mo’fo, because of how silky and utterly touchable it leaves your skin. It’s also 100% natural – you can make it in your kitchen) to remove body hair.

It was also one of the most delightful movies I’ve seen in a long time, partly because I saw it in Arabic and the authenticity and nostalgia hit home for me. Also, it was almost like seeing one of my own novels come to life – the story centers around a salon, the three women who run it, and their most faithful customers. Lalaye is a Christian Lebanese early-thirty-something having a tortured affair with a married man in a society where slipping away to a motel incognito is not exactly an option, Nissreen, a young Muslim Lebanese woman who should be thrilled about her upcoming wedding, except the groom comes from a stricter family than hers, and she hasn’t found the courage to tell him she’s not a virgin. Meanwhile, boyish Reema who mans the generator when the electricity gives out, ignores the attentions of the neighborhood “Johnny Bravo” in favor of a beautiful woman who shyly but wantonly abandons her luxurious long, black hair to Reema’s hands. Added to the mix are themes of growing old in an unforgiving environment, family – the one you’re born with and the one you create – and sacrifice.

That this movie was criticized as being a Lebanese version of Queen Latifa’s Beauty Shop annoyed me to no end. Here, here and here. And here. This is just like that stupid article that calls women the “dimmer sex” because they focus on the emotional side of things rather than the destructive side. The movie did not have to go deeply into the ravages of the war – the barely-hanging-on “B” from the signage of the salon is enough to show destruction, the hot water running out, the electricity suddenly and without warning shutting down go far in showing life in the wake of rationing, and the room that Layale (in her thirties) shares with her young teenaged brother speak volumes about life outside the US, Canada, and Western Europe where nearly everyone stays at home, in cramped quarters, until they’re married, no matter how old they are. There’s plenty more to say, but I wouldn’t want to spoil the plot.

Go see it if you can, it’s a gem of a movie told from a seldom seen perspective, and most importantly, it’s an honest, authentic movie that’s positive and uplifting as opposed to sad and depressing. Not too many of those out there!

1 comment:

Marilyn Brant said...

(Trying this again, since my first post didn't seem to work... :)

Thanks for the review, Nadine, and for the links you included. It sounds like a fascinating film! I'll look for it in Chicago.