If you are in Boston, San Francisco or Southern California, you might want to check out this independent movie by Minh Duc Nguyen. Touch takes place in a Vietnamese nail salon and follows the building relationship between Tam, a manicurist, and her new client Brendan, a mechanic with oil-stained hands.
Half of the film is in English, while the other half follows Tam’s relationship with her family and coworkers in Vietnamese (with English subtitles).
Minh’s main reason for capturing the nail salon in his first feature-length film is simple. “Every Vietnamese in America knows someone who works in a nail salon. That's why I wanted to make this movie. I read that over half of nail salons in America are owned and operated by Vietnamese. The nail salon industry has provided countless job opportunities for Vietnamese immigrants, but their stories have never been told on-screen. For the first time, we have a movie about the hidden life of Vietnamese women working in a typical nail salon, told from their point-of-views. I saw the nail salon as a perfect setting to tell a multicultural story, where the Vietnamese workers interact daily with their American customers that come from all walks of like. But I also wanted to touch on universal themes such as love, loss and the importance of human contact,” Minh says.
Here’s the synopsis:
At V.I.P. Nails, a Vietnamese manicurist named Tam has a new customer: Brendan, a shy mechanic who literally has a problem on his hands. He can never get rid of the oil stains around his nails, and when he tries to be intimate with his aloof wife, she always rejects him with the same excuse: “Your hands are filthy!” Desperately seeking to save his marriage, Brendan goes to the nail salon every day, where Tam does more than scrub his hands clean. She also offers him advice on how to get his wife to love him again. But soon, Tam and Brendan find themselves drawn to each other, an attraction which becomes harder and harder to resist.
This sensual film explores the sense of touch and its emotional impact — how with just a simple touch, we can reveal our deepest longings, give the utmost pleasure to others and even heal a wounded soul.
The nails featured in the film (one shown above) were created by Noriko Kosaka Chen, a member of team ONS
and frequent nail art competitor at the trade shows. At least one of the nail techs in the salon scenes is a real nail tech. The other actors, including Minh himself, were given a crash course on manicures and pedicures at Advance Beauty College
in Garden Grove, Calif. In fact, with the crew's inability to find a salon willing to close shop for six days of filming, they built a nail salon set with pedicure spa chairs loaned out by Lexor
, nail polish from Nails 2000
, and a lot of nail supplies from Hollywood Beauty Supply in Westminster, Calif. Without the help from these three companies, Minh says he wouldn't have been able to make the movie.
Minh says Touch will appeal to women as it explores issues that a lot of women can relate to, like self-expression, marital problems, moral responsibility, and conflict with one's parents, but hopes that men will want to see his film. “It’s about the nail salon, which every woman at one point in her life has gone to. But I hope men will also want to see this film because it really is a universal story about desire, love, loss, guilt — themes that every human shares with one another,” he says.
Vietnamese International Film Festival — April 16th, 2011, 6pm
Humanities Instructional Building (HIB), UC Irvine, Irvine, Calif.
San Francisco Diasporic Vietnamese Film Festival — April 23, 2011, time TBD
Coppola Theater, SF State University
AMC Theatres, 175 Tremont Street, Boston Common
See you at the theater!