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Venus Beauty Institute

Venus Beauty Institute

Director Tonie Marshall examines a lonely, early middle aged woman through the titular posh salon in a busy Parisian street corner.  Nathalie Baye (An Affair of Love) projects some of the wry, insightful qualities that Marshall instills throughout this uneven but perceptive French loquacious modern variation on Sex and the City.

Baye's Angele deals with her scared past with a wistful cynicism that manifests itself in lustfulness over a fulfilling relationship.  Ironically, Angele devotes her day to help "take the skin down memory lane" for the patrons of the parlor run by the chic, entrepreneurial blond Madame Nadine (Bulle Ogier).  Outside her cleansing, anti-aging job, she sates herself with fast sexual encounters and is rejected early on in a cogent scene at a train depot.

But during her loud cathartic chastisement, she gains the attentions of a noble law student, Antoine (Samuel Le Bihan) who pledges his love for her.  Young enough to be her son, the engaged handsome guy feels strongly for Angele, who resists his passion for awhile.

Around the one night persona of Angele, Marshall, a co-writer here, has subordinate vignettes involving colleagues Marie, a stunning Audrey Tautou, and Samantha, endowed with blithe vanity by Mathilde Seigner.  Marie attracts an opulent widower who works on her innocence and Samantha bickers with Angele who hopes to open another beauty salon.

Baye uses glances and expressions well throughout, but Venus Beauty Institute gets melodramatic and a bit wearied.  Nevertheless, much empathy is felt for Baye and her despondent co-stars, and there is a psychological subtlety within the upbeat pinkish blue tint to the Venus Beauty Institute in the emotional revelations beneath the derisive facade of what makes one feel good.

Venus Beauty Institute

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