Caramel (Sukkar banat)
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Nadine Labaki’s internationally acclaimed debut feature, ‘Caramel’ was instantly hailed on its release for depicting a contemporary Beirut that had seldom been seen on the big screen – not a tense, ravaged metropolis torn to shreds by a lengthy civil war, but rather one where citizens face mundane problems (like being stopped by the police for not wearing a seatbelt), alongside life’s rather larger issues.
Labaki herself plays Layale, one of three women working in a hectic beauty salon, all of whom are gamely dealing with some kind of trouble in the realm of love. This passionate trio is joined by two other, somewhat older women, and as we see these five lives intersect and overlap, we recognise that it is the bonds between them that buoy them through their tears and drive their frequent laughter.
Composer Khaled Mouzanar’s music soars as the wonderful, elegant backdrop for the film’s transitional passages, his sound cues indicating changes in mood, or introducing new characters or dilemmas. Labaki places moments of wry humour throughout the film and these are cleverly supported by Mouzanar’s whimsical Arabesque compositions – a sequence in which Layale prepares to indulge her jealousy of her lover’s wife using the depilatory caramel that gives the film its name is simply priceless.