Two French winners on video

Venus Beauty Institute Starring Nathalie Baye, Bulle Ogier and Audrey Tautou. Directed by Tonie Marshall. Rated R.
Rated 4.0 Spritely sex comedy in the French mode is just one of the virtues of this multi-character romp centered on the eponymous beauty salon. New Wave veteran Bulle Ogier presides over a wry, worldly crew of beauticians who take a saucily holistic approach to their jobs.

Nathalie Baye (An Affair of Love) is the best of the lot, but she’s in danger of growing bitter in the aftermath of her own romantic mishaps. A pre-Amélie Audrey Tautou is also on hand doing good works that are not entirely un-Amélie (that is, coy and cute) in form.

Jacques Bonnaffe (Va Savoir) is most prominent among the flawed-but-still-trying males on the scene, and another generation of French stars is represented, in hauntingly comic ways, by the likes of Micheline Presle, Emmanuelle Riva and Robert Hossein.

Baye is the foremost embodiment of the film’s rambunctious comic wisdom, but Tonie Marshall’s film thrives on a savvy mix of anarchy in the vive le difference mode and orderly elegance in the manner of the Venus Beauty Institute itself.