The carefully unattached existence of working girl Nathalie Baye is suddenly upended when lovesick hunk Samuel Le Bihan introduces himself: "My name is Antoine and I love you." Set in a cute glass storefront with a neon pi... more »nk and blue façade that could have sprung from a Jacques Demy musical, this bittersweet romantic drama was written for the arresting Baye, who plays a middle-aged "girl" in a uniquely Parisian beauty shop that specializes in facials, body treatments, massages, and emotional confession. Her coworkers, young, sweetly guileless brunette cutie Audrey Tautou and gloomy twentysomething Mathilde Seigner, are like glimpses into her past lives, one full of hope and giddy optimism, the other turned resentful from disappointment. She clings to the girly camaraderie and workaday autopilot of her job while her "patronne" (the incomparable Bulle Ogier) nudges her toward responsibility. Writer-director Tonie Marshall has a marvelous feeling for the women who work and visit the place, though her soulful bohemian artist Le Bihan is defined by little more than good looks, shaggy charm, and a kind of reckless attraction. The film is at its best with the women: the easy by-play and guarded emotions of the shopgirls, the often uncontrolled outbursts of the offbeat and oddball clients, and especially the haunted and lonely performance from Baye, who warily creeps out of her shell for another chance at intimacy. --Sean Axmaker« less
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 07/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tonie Marshall's "The Venus Beauty Institute" could have only been made in France. It is a mature work that is silly, serious, sexy and ultimately sublime in its' treatment of love and relationships. In the film Nathalie Baye plays tough cookie Angele who uses one night stands to survive one lonely night after another. She is the agressor and wants nothing to do with Love. One of the great things about this film is that Angele cruises train stations and fast food joints (only in France does fast food mean lamb shank, baquettes and napoleons!) for sex and it is neither sleazy of pitiful! Just when you start to feel that you know what the story is ...along comes rough and tumble Antoine to upset the cart, both ours and Angele's. Much happens in this film and it's all sexy, racy and done as well as anything I've seen this year. American film makers should be forced to watch this movie. No on second thought...Americans don't have it in them to make films like this. Let's leave it to the French who do this kind of film so well. Viva La France!"
Welcome to "Venus Beauty" where Amelie Met Her First Love
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 03/04/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A hit back in France, "Venus Beauty Institute" came here in Japan and USA. I am afraid that the film was seeking audience very hard in theater, though. It's a pity because "Venus Beauty" is a really good movie with superb performance. And it is the place where Audrey Tautou (aka Amelie) was working before she landed in a cafe in Paris. THAT makes the film is worth watching, don't you think?DVD or VHS's cover will show you three workers (how do you say in English?) at a beauty salon, clad in vivid pink, but the film's main story follows Nathalie Baye's character, Angele, now forty-years-old, whose relationships with a man she loved in the past, it is implied, had not been an easy one. The moment she is ditched by a guy after a 3-days love affair, she encounters a new love without her knowing; in fact, you see behind that guy, an artist Antoine (Samuel Le Bihan, seen in "Brotherhood of Wolf") falls in love at first sight. Suddenly she is told that he loves her, and he keeps on coming in spite of her repeated rejection. Should she accept his love, instead of having an easy relations with forgettable dates, knowing that loving means complicated things, as she experienced before.... In the meanwhile, Angele's co-workers have their own relationships, and they are told (or implied) in a very subdued, subtle way. Samantha (played by Mathilde Seinger, younger sister of Emmanuelle of "The Nineth Gate" and Harrison Ford film "Frantic") seems to keep on having dates every night with different boys. Other worker, youngest Marie (lovely Tautou) is courted by an old, kind gentleman who asks her to come to his house. Among these well-drawn characters, you will meet many strange customers coming to the salon, who make you smile, including a totally naked "Madame Buisse"(!) coming to salon wearing ... a overcoat only. The greatest virtue of "Beauty Venus" is Nathalie Baye's marvellous acting, which convincingly portrays Angele's fragile side of character, who cannot trust herself to anybody anymore. Her insecurity is sometimes very poignantly expressed, but her pain comes very naturally, because always superb Baye never relies on overacting here. That makes a good contrast to Audrey Tautou's innocent love, which is also an impressive part of the film. For all simple, and in a sense too familiar story of the film, "Venus Beauty" is a memorable film that makes you feel good, thanks to its romantic (but not sugary) atomosphere and insightful study of characters.Using striking blue and pink colors, the director Tonie Marhall creates a small magical world where pains and regrets of ordinary people are not forgotten, but are presented with a delicate overtone. Everything is told in a understated voice, so you might feel the film is too slow-moving or dull at some times, but good performance and realistic feeling of the salon (they really made it on the street) make up for that. I assure you that next time you go to a beauty salon, you will smile remembering those colorful characters of "Venus Beauty Institute."The film also gives extra fun to French cinema fans. Look for faces of Frederic Andrei (star of "Diva" -- long time no see), Claire Denis (director of "Nenette and Boni" -- Vince Gallo was there, remember?), Philippe Harel (director of "The Banned Woman") and many, many veteran actors. And Tante Maryse (one of Angele's aunts) is Micheline Presle, the director's mother."
Dianne Foster | USA | 06/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this film to practice my French. I figured it was fluffy, but would prove more interesting than language lab. I was right. However, it not only beats language lab, it is film of great depth--and pleasing to the eye. Nathalie Baye, who plays the lead character Angele in the VENUS BEAUTY INSTITUTE, played the wife to Gerhard Depardieu's husband in THE RETURN OF MARTIN GUERRE. She is not a terribly pretty woman, but like most French women she has a "certain something, I know not what" and is a fine actress. The film is currently being marketed as an early Audrey Tautou film (she plays Marie, the 20-year old beautician who becomes involved with an older man), but Tautou has ninth billing and much less screen time than Baye.Angele is very unhappy. She apparently has never been able to make a committment to a man. One man with whom she apparently had an earlier serious relationship appears throughout the film (she runs back to him whenever she is wounded), and it seems she may have once loved him, but somehow she shot him in the face. Angele uses casual sex to deal with her unhappiness. Her tactics frequently led to bad experiences. One day as she is being dumped by her latest jerk, a young man who looks suspiciously like a young relative of Depardieu approaches her and tells her he has fallen in love with her. The rest of the film tells their story--including an ex-fiancee with a gun. This is a beautiful film. The story is beautiful. The film contains beautiful shot after shot. I am attracted to color and the celadon greens, mango pinks, celestial blues, and others are fabulous colors are to die for (think Jamaica). The interior shots of the beauty institute, the apartments, the homes are filled with color and ambient lighting. Poitiers Cathedral at Christmas and the Christmas lights on the street are lovely.I've spent a lot of time in salons being waxed, and plucked, and poked, and baked under a hair drier, and I have never seen the salon so well depicted. The characters who receive Angele's ministrations are treated with loving kindness and lots of hot wax and scented oil. This film is so REAL and if it says anything it says that LOVE is where you find it, even if it involves torture."
Dennis Littrell | SoCal | 08/01/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This stars Nathalie Baye, not Audrey Tautou, of Amelie (2001) fame. (She has a supporting role.) Baye is Angele, a 40-year-old Parisian beautician who has loved and lost a few too many times. Indeed, as the film opens we (and Samuel Le Bihan as Antoine) watch and hear her being dumped once again. Well, she is careless with men. She is perhaps too "easy." She picks up men, the wrong ones. She is aggressive in her desire. And now she has become cynical. All she wants now are one-nights stands, no more love, no more unbreak my heart. Love is too painful.
So when Antoine falls in love with her at something like first sight (I do have a weakness for love at first sight: it is so, so daring, and so, shall we say, unpredictable) she rejects him out of hand even though he is a vital and handsome artist, confident and winning. What IS her problem? But he pursues her even though he is engaged to another (Helene Fillieres). And when she gets drunk and wants some casual sex with him, he says no. He wants her fully in control of her faculties.
So this is a romantic comedy of sorts centered around a beauty parlor. However any resemblance to Hollywood movies in the same genre (Shampoo (1975) and Hairspray (1988) somehow come to mind) is purely coincidental. Here the salon is brightly and colorfully lit with a tinker bell as the door opens, and the clientele are eclectic to say the least: an exhibitionist who arrives in a raincoat and nothing else; a rich old man lusting after Tautou; a woman with oozing pimples on her...(never mind)...etc.
What makes this work so well is a completely winning performance by Baye, sharp direction by Toni Marshall, and a kind of quirky and blunt realism that eschews all cliche. Tautou fans will be disappointed in her modest part, but she is just adorable in that role. The voyeur scene in which she is willingly seduced by the rich old guy may raise your libido or your envy depending on where you're coming from. Ha!
See this for Nathalie Baye who gives the performance of a lifetime, simultaneously subtle and strong, vulnerable and willful. She makes us identify with her character and she makes us wish her love."
Subtle and fun
May May | BETHESDA, MARYLAND United States | 07/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A good story, no fireworks (except a little at the very end), a realistic, thoughtful, beautiful story about a woman who has given up on being in love. Angele was once in love and for some reason that is never explained, she did something, apparently in a passionate rage, that scarred her lover's face severely. She seems to feel overwhelmed by guilt for this, and so she refuses to let herself ever be in love again. She goes from man to man, quick one-night (if that long) stands. One day, a much younger man sitting in a cafe overhears her being dumped and, as he says, "is moved" by her. This story is about how she lets herself fall in love again. I loved it. Subplots of the lives of the other girls that work with her at the Venus Beaute Institut round out the story wonderfully. It's not like the typical American romantic/comedy movie, it's much more subtle, much more realistic, much more tender. If you love Meg Ryan type movies, all cuteness and (to me, boring and predictable) smart aleck wise cracks, you might not like this. But then again, you might."