Starring: Nadine Labaki, Adel Karam, Yasmine Al Masri, Joanna Moukarzel, Gisele Adouad, Sihame Haddad, Fatmeh Safa, Ismail Antar, Fadia Stella, Dimitri Staneoski
Directed by: Nadine Labaki
Caramel is a charming ensemble piece by first time director Nadine Labiki. Labiki is known for her work directing music videos for Arabic pop stars (Nancy Ajram, in particularly) and I was really impressed with this as her debut feature film. It concerns five Lebanese women living in Beirut and their everyday struggles. Most scenes take place in the beauty salon where three of them work. The film has a nice balance of drama and comedy. Despite the fact that it deals with some serious issues in Lebanese society, it never gets too heavy. The characters deal with such things as being in love, family issues, adultery, sexuality, marriage, re-virginification, homosexuality, living in a mostly conservative culture, and aging. The chemistry between all of the women is great and their dialogue and interactions feel very natural. Overall, this film shows an excellant, real slice of everyday life of women living in today's Beirut.
Linda Linda Linda (2005)
Starring: Bae Doona, Aki Maeda, Yu Kashii, Shiori Sekine
Directed by: Nobuhiro Yamashita
Linda Linda Linda is the story four Japanese high school girls (OK, well, technically one of them is Korean) who form a rock band to play at their school's Hiiragi-sai or cultural festival. Finally, a movie about Japanese schoolkids where they're not trying to kill themselves or each other! Granted, my exposure to movies about Japanese school children is limited to Suicide Club and Battle Royale but, you know, it seemed like a pattern. This film is an adorable, peppy, feel-good piece. When the story begins.Kei (Kashii), Nozomi (Sekine) and Kyoko (Maeda) are in a bit of a pickle. Three days before the school's festival, their lead singer and guitarist quit, leaving them in a scramble to replace them in time. Kei takes over guitar (though she barely knows how to play). They recruit Korean exchange student, Son (Doona) to sing, though her Japanese is a little rough. They decide to play three songs by Japanese punk band The Blue Hearts and the next few days are a series of grueling, non-stop practice sessions. Through learning to play together, the girls learn about each other, become friends, and become empowered through the power of ROCK. Although the pacing is a little off in the beginning and it takes a bit of time to get into this movie, I was eventually won over by its charm, energy, and spirit. When it's time for the girls to finally play the show they've worked so hard for, you're jumping up and down and rooting for them to kick some ass. Overall, this is a really adorable movie with some great music. It made me want to get some stuff by The Blue Hearts...but sadly I can only find imported copies on Amazon for $40. Sigh. I'll leave you with the following clip: