Picks and Pans Review: Venus Beauty Institute

updated 11/13/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/13/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

Nathalie Baye, Bulle Ogier

Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle. The chimes sound every time someone opens or closes the front door of a Parisian beauty spa, the primary setting for this appealing French romantic comedy, winner of four major César awards (including best picture), the Gallic equivalent of the Oscars. The movie's heroine, Angèle (Baye), works at the salon giving facials and other beauty treatments to a parade of loquacious clients. Between ministrations, Angèle tends to her own complicated love life. She is given to brief affairs, has an ex-husband who's still in the picture, and is being enthusiastically pursued by Antoine (Samuel Le Bihan), who falls head over heels for Angèle upon overhearing a beau dump her at a cafe.

Venus is about believing in the possibility of starting over in life or love, just as customers of the spa hope a new lipstick will transform them. It also offers the chance to see Baye, 52 (and still best known stateside for 1982's The Return of Martin Guerre), dig into the sort of nuanced, complex role that actresses her age in Hollywood mostly find only on TV these days. (Not rated)

Bottom Line: More than skin-deep

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