When the successful businessman Marcel (Dominique Lamure) is found apparently murdered one morning in his large house, the eight women closest to him are all potential suspects, each with at least one valid motive: was it his wife Gaby (Catherine Deneuve), his daughters Suzon (Virginie Ledoyen) or Catherine (Ludivine Sagnier), his mother-in-law Mamy (Danielle Darrieux), his sister-in-law Augustine (Isabelle Huppert), his sister Pierette (Fanny Ardent), the cook Chanel (Firmine Richard) or the maid Louise (Emmanuelle Beart)? As the house is isolated in a snowstorm with the phone down, the women are forced to confront each other and themselves.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
All right, hands up anyone who knows how Francois Ozon pulled France’s top actresses into one single movie like this? Because he made Charlotte Rampling a standout in Under The Sand? Because he had a great script? Because he’s a respected director? Wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s because he told them all they could not only overact a bit, but they all get to sing …. like in a musical. But it isn’t called a musical, so people will go along and hey presto…Well, that’s my conjecture, anyway, because the film is a flimsy frolic if you take it seriously, but an entertaining and offbeat exercise in psychological dramatics if you don’t. This is the perfect antidote to Christmas burn-out, even though it takes place at Christmas. There’s nothing very Christmasy about the atmosphere, with its erotic undertow, its witty bitchiness or its snappy dialogue. It’s a whodunit in stilettos, where the stilettos are dangerous, sharp objects handled without care by women on the edge of a murderous breakdown.
Review by Louise Keller:
How could anyone resist 8 Women, a delectable and stylish French who-dun-it with musical overtones, and starring some of great luminaries of French cinema. A flamboyant frolic with flamboyant finesse, every moment is pure pleasure: it’s intriguing, funny, poignant, revealing and overtly entertaining. Each of the women is a flower whose superficial petals are discarded, and her innermost secrets exposed. In fact it seems that distinguished filmmaker Francois Ozon also considers them flowers, as the opening credits superimpose each actress’ name over an exquisite, unique flower such as a rose, an orchid, a daisy or a sunflower. It’s a romp filled with secrets, surprises and songs, and we only have to wait around 10 minutes before we are treated to the first of the musical routines. If you are wondering whether you will see screen goddess Catherine Deneuve burst into song and dance, the answer is ‘mais oui’, with a capital M for magnifique. Then there’s the luscious Fanny Ardant and Virginie Ledoyen, the latter with the effervescence and charm of Audrey Hepburn. The concept is original and the script witty, with Deneuve spitting out lines (to Huppert’s character) like ‘I am beautiful and rich; she’s ugly and poor’ and ‘You’re so common’ (to the maid, Louise), with an afterthought ‘Maybe he was tired of exceptional women.’ The entire cast is splendid, but Isabelle Huppert is the ultimate scene stealer with her obsessed, bitter spinster who undergoes a dramatic physical transformation. Set in a wintry, snowy isolated setting, we are locked in a house with these 8 women. There’s the matriarch, the bitchy wife, the jealous sister, the pregnant daughter, the precocious teen, the enigmatic sister-in-law, the complex cook and the sexy maid. Everyone is telling lies, but for different reasons. We get to know and understand each woman, glimpsing briefly into her life. But there are two realities – the real and the fantasy – which blend seamless and bewitchingly. The secrets become more bizarre, and by the film’s end, we hardly bat an eyelid at the sight of the glamour-pusses in their stilettos entangled fighting and fondling on the carpet. 8 Women is visually lush with its rich production design and divine drop-dead designer dresses. Ozon has taken the murder-mystery formula, shaken it up and injected massive doses of fun, yet retaining depth and serious undercurrent. Farcial, yet profound, it’s a treat worth savouring.
Email this article
8 FEMMES (M)
aka 8 Women
CAST: Danielle Darrieux, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Beart, Fanny Ardent, Virginie Ledoyen, Ludivine Sagnier, Firmine Richard, Dominique Lamure
PRODUCER: Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonier
DIRECTOR: Francois Ozon
SCRIPT: Francois Ozon, (Robert Thomas play)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jeanne Lapiorie
EDITOR: Lawrence Bawedin
MUSIC: Krishna Levy
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Arnaud de Moleron
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Magna Pacific
VIDEO RELEASE: May 14, 2003 (Also on DVD)