The New Nars Cosmetics Documentary Is a Love Letter to Its Founder

Unknown Beauty: François Nars explores the makeup artist’s influences and insights.

francios nars documentary
(Image credit: Courtesy of NARS)

Every so often, beauty lovers are gifted a special glance behind the curtain from those who’ve shaped the industry. These peeks come more often these days with the invent of social media (we love you, makeup artist content creators), but there remain a certain few who have enough lore to hold our attention for a very, very long time. Take Nars' founder and creative director, François Nars, for example.

Last week, a new film about the life and work of Nars was released. Directed by filmmaker Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Unknown Beauty: François Nars (which is billed as a document, not a documentary, and features minimal dialogue) explores Nars’ background, muses, influences, and art through the years. According to the film’s description, the photographer aims to take viewers “on a tour” of all that’s shaped him. “The fashion designers and models of ‘70s Paris, the underground of ‘90s New York, and the cinema,” the release reads. While mostly consisting of eye-catching clips from his favorite movies and runway shows, Unknown Beauty also includes mementos from Nars’ childhood in the South of France.

francios nars documentary

(Image credit: Courtesy of NARS)

“As long as I can remember, my sensibility was always there when it came to beauty,” Nars, who founded his namesake makeup line in 1994 with 12 lipsticks, says in the trailer. “Whatever you didn’t expect, I liked to do. Whatever could shock, I was there.” While Nars has never been shy about sharing his wisdom—he released a fantastic how-to book, Makeup Your Mind: Express Yourself in 2011—this is perhaps the first time his influences have been cataloged to such a degree.

The movie also features the voices of a number of icons who shaped and continue to inspire Nars, including main narrator Charlotte Rampling, who starred in his makeup brand’s fall 2014 campaign at age 68. Other stars include designers Marc Jacobs and Anna Sui, stylist Patti Wilson, director Fabien Baron, and models and actresses Betty Catroux, Dayle Haddon, Lauren Hutton, Isabella Rossellini, Penelope Tree, and Sylvie Vartan.

“I wanted to do something very different, not your obvious documentary of me sitting on a chair, answering questions and talking about my life,” Nars previously said. “Lisa understood that it had to be a more rebellious documentary because somewhere deep inside, I'm a rebel. I don't like conventional things; I like when you break the mold. I like [to surprise] people in a good way.”

Sophia Vilensky
Freelance Writer

Sophia Vilensky is a Freelance Beauty Writer at Marie Claire with a beauty, wellness, and entertainment journalism portfolio that includes contributions to Byrdie, Bravo, Teen Vogue, and Us Weekly. Growing up in a family of beauticians—and through her own personal studies—she developed an in-depth understanding of aesthetics, cosmetic product formulation, and beauty treatment development and has also held roles as a senior copywriter, content strategist, and proofreader for top beauty and wellness brands. Even so, you'd be hard pressed to find her with her hair and makeup actually done. Sophia is based in Minneapolis and is a 2019 graduate of the University of Minnesota, where she majored in English and minored in cinema studies. During her time at the university, she was the Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Minnesota Daily, earning the 2019 Editor of the Year award for her work. She connected deeply with the Twin Cities arts scene, collaborating with leading beauty professionals, designers, and artists. Graduating Summa Cum Laude, her thesis—a close-reading of Vanderpump Rules—was featured on NPR. When not immersed in writing or testing new products, Sophia enjoys watching reality TV, reading, and exploring the newest woo-woo wellness trends. Keep up with her on Instagram @sophiavilensky.