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  • RWiggum20 August 2003
    '8 Women' is a rather unique film. On the surface it is the probably only entry in the genre of the grotesque whodunit-musical. But actually, it's a huge playground - for the actresses who get the chance to play with the stereotypes attached to them, and for director François Ozon to toy with the clichés of the whodunit.

    Here's the setup: 1950s. A beautiful mansion. A man is found lying in his bed with a knife in his back. The possible suspects: His wife, his two daughters, his sister, his mother-in-law, his sister-in-law, the chambermaid and the cook. As these eight women can't leave the estate or call the police, they try to find the murderer themselves. We know this situation from countless Agatha Christie-stories.

    But what Ozon makes of this situation is just incredible. It already begins with the casting: Who else could play the gentrified Gaby if not Catherine Deneuve? Is there any actress who would fit more perfectly for the role of the spinsterish sister than Isabelle Huppert? Who else would you want to walk around in that dress of a chambermaid than the most desirable Emmanuelle Béart? The actresses are eagerly playing with the stereotypes that surround them because of both, the roles they played and their private lives.

    Then there's the story: All whodunits have those obligatory scenes where the motives of all characters are revealed. '8 Women' takes that formula and deliberately goes over the top with it, it's characters are unfaithful, pregnant, lesbian, poisoners and many things more. And as a final twist, the film stops eight times to give each of its protagonists a chance to reveal her true character in a scene entirely devoted to them - singing and dancing. There is also another scene worth mentioning that is entirely dedicated to the actresses: A scene with a lot of dialog that entirely consists of nothing but a series of closeups - and that for about three minutes.

    Cinephiles can enjoy this film on even another level: The film is filled with references to beloved classics. Consider Fanny Ardant's musical number, which pays homage to Rita Hayworth's glove-strip in 'Gilda', and another Rita Hayworth-moment so wonderful I won't reveal it here. Consider Emmanuelle Béarts hairstyle that echoes Kim Novak in 'Vertigo'. Consider the fact that the late husband of the Dannielle Darrieux character was a general, reminding us of 'Madame de...'. Or consider the painting of the young Catherine Deneuve hanging in one room - a replica of a 'Belle de jour'-poster. All this is supported by the rich, colorful cinematography, the art direction and the costumes, that give the entire film a 1950s look.

    But attention: If you give this film a chance, don't expect it to be logically consistent. It isn't. But that doesn't matter at all. The murder mystery story is replaceable. The film is entirely devoted to its brilliant actresses and the wonderful, bitchy dialog they exchange. It's great fun and it is getting better with every viewing.
  • marissas753 November 2007
    In the simply uncategorizable French movie "8 Women," successful businessman Marcel is found stabbed to death in his bed. Whodunit? Was it his wife (Catherine Deneuve) or his estranged sister (Fanny Ardant)? Or his mother-in-law (Danielle Darrieux) or his sister-in-law (Isabelle Huppert)? Or one of his daughters (Virginie Ledoyen, Ludivine Sagnier)? Or his longtime cook (Firmine Richard) or his new housemaid (Emmanuelle Béart)?

    The movie, however, is less concerned with the murderess's identity than with giving these 8 actresses the chance to show off, in a series of campy, funny, melodramatic scenes. To that effect, there are countless catty remarks and catfights. The revealing of progressively more outrageous family secrets. Lesbianism, twisted love triangles, chic couture wardrobes, transformations from ugly duckling to swan. And, last but not least, musical numbers. The action stops for each woman to dance and sing (usually in a breathy untrained voice) a pop song that reveals her character's emotional state. It's a bizarre mix, but you'll find yourself laughing through your incredulity.

    Faced with eight such talented actresses it feels rude to single out individual performers, but Huppert's portrayal of the embittered spinster Augustine steals the movie. Every one of her line readings is distinctive and hilarious, making this abrasive, histrionic character an absolute delight to watch. Almost as good is Ardant, playing a surprisingly likable free-spirited bad girl; because her character has no shame, she's at least honest when all the other women tell lies.

    The lesser-known Firmine Richard gets one of the best musical numbers with "Pour ne pas vivre seul" ("So as not to live alone"), and Sagnier, who was in her early twenties when she filmed the movie, very convincingly plays a bratty 16-year-old.

    All of the actresses' roles allow them to satirize their own or others' personas: Béart sends up the "seductive French maid" stereotype; Ledoyen is costumed to look like Audrey Hepburn but her character is no girlish innocent; Deneuve plays a variation on her customary chilly, glamorous bourgeois matron. Meanwhile, grande dame Darrieux cuts loose in the role of a meddling, lying grandma.

    "8 Women" is thus more than just a comedy-mystery-musical: it's a witty postmodern comment on movie genres, movie stars, and three generations of French divas. It has a healthy sense of its own absurdity (indeed, how can anyone take this Agatha-Christie-type mystery seriously anymore?) yet all of the actresses are fully committed to telling this ridiculous story. Certainly one of the strangest films I've ever seen, it also--unlike so many serious and earnest modern movies--reminds me of why I love the Technicolor screen and its great actresses in the first place.
  • 1st watched 1/23/2005 - 9 out of 10(Dir-Francois Ozone): Well crafted drama/mystery/musical that is so full it's hard to critique into a summary. The basic plot is that 8 related women find themselves in the same place at approximately the same time when the lone man is presumed to be murdered, who happens to be the grandfather, father, husband, bearer of child, lover etc… of the women(not necessarily in that order). You talk about complexity of plot? Every time someone opens their mouth another twist is thrown into the mix. I think it would take at least another viewing to understand everyone's relationship with everyone else by the end of the movie. And besides this, musical numbers are thrown in to help us understand the characters that are sung by themselves and sometimes backed up by the rest of the cast(ala Bollywood). One thing I have always noticed about French movies is that they come across as a confused people but they're OK with that, instead of the American's who believe that "they" have the answers to everything. This makes it slightly un-comfortable for us pompous Americans to view movies like this where every "real" thing in life is kind of taken with a little tongue-in-cheek mentality but this is the reality of their people and it's present often in their movies. Good for them!! This is so evident in this movie where because of it's mystery plot, we think that who did the killing is what's important, but what we find out is that there is much more behind the so-called answer we're seeking which makes for a very complex experience. Thank you French cinema. Without it there would not be movies like this.
  • Francois Ozon is a daring director who never leaves the audience indifferent... 8 Women can be seen as a mysoginist view of womanhood from the viewpoint of a gay director... However I for one saw this movie as great entertainment and excellent showpiece for France's leading screen divas.

    8 Woman is a whodunnit not so far from Agatha Christie's 10 Petits Negres: 8 women each have enough reasons to kill the father, in-law, brother and master of the house. Of course I will not tell who killed the man and why, but it is not so important after all. Because 8 Women is first and foremost about womanhood: all facets of the woman exposed through the revelations, attitudes, manipulations of 8 different women: the girl, the blossoming young lady (Ledoyen), the femme fatale (fabulous Ardant), the femme repressed (hilarious Huppert), the bourgeoise (Deneuve), the old stepmother, the lesbian, the sexual and sexy maid (Beart).

    This film is all about the cast performance. All women have their sing-a-song moment very apropos and funny. All actors deliver stunningly, especially Ardant, Deneuve and Beart. It is very lighthearted despite the somber revelations: bright colours, golden 50's nostalgic atmosphere, nice pop tunes with fun choreography.

    It is great to see that French directors love their actresses whatever their age... Hollywood learn from this, we don't care much about Pamela Anderson or Jennifer Lopez-like babes... Honestly as a young French guy, the 50-something Fanny Ardant is the one who turned me on the most!

    Wholeheartedly, 9.5/10
  • Janet-419 March 2003
    In this time when it may be considered fashionable to bash the French (this is written on the eve of war - the USA against Iraq) I, for one, wish to open a bottle of the best French Champagne to toast this most marvelous film! Merci beaucoup, Monsieur Ozon! This movie is a treat on all levels - sure, it's not for everyone, but if you like musicals, and a plate full of gorgeous GREAT actresses to boot, then - have at it, and enjoy!
  • 8 Femmes is a playful mystery/musical/dark comedy that hearkens back to Jacques Demy's Parapluies de Cherbourg, which also starred Catherine Deneuve, and Demoiselles de Rochefort, in which Danielle Darrieux and Deneuve played mother and daughter. The story stars off as a classic tale of murder in a closed room of an isolated mansion, and all of the eight women become suspects. As the various clues and revealed secrets begin to pile up and become more and more absurd, however, it becomes clear that the mystery is secondary to exploring the various kinds of relationships that exist between these women and the way they have all been affected by their relationships (or lack of relationships) with men, especially the man who has been killed.

    The mystery is also secondary to having a good time, which everyone seems to be doing. One of the main strengths of the movie is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. The director and all of the actresses seem to be enjoying themselves so much that a sense of fun radiates throughout the film. Ozon uses laughter and black humor, however, to investigates the pain, rivalry and joy that arise between mothers and daughters, pairs of sisters, sisters-in-law, women servants and their mistresses, and women in love with other women. It's a grand buffet of fine acting and difficult to pick out the best of the bunch - all eight women are wonderful - but Isabelle Huppert steals a number of scenes (hard to do in that company) with the most over the top and unexpected performance. Each woman has great moments, however, sometimes of tenderness, sometimes of hilarious bitchiness, and once in a while, of sudden and intense emotional revelation. The songs that each one sings give a bit of insight to their characters and add to the overall fun of the film, but they also present dramatic challenges to the actresses, and all of them do well in making these musical numbers work.

    It's great to see Darrieux again, and she does an excellent job as the matriarch of the clan who seems to be a frail and loving old grandmother at first but then pulls one surprise after another. The funniest bit in the film, a wicked moment of black comedy, involves an argument between her and daughter Gaby (Deneuve) that ends in shocking and unladylike violence. The song chosen for Darrieux to sing at the end, a haunting and poignant piece written by French poet Louis Aragon and the great singer-songwriter Geogre Brassens, pulls the film together emotionally in an unexpected way.

    People expecting a straight mystery film may be disappointed in and confused by the film, and the American distributors haven't helped matters any by failing to mention on the back of the video box that 8 Femmes is a musical and a dark comedy as well. But for those viewers who have an open mind and are in the mood for a playful mystery with several great actresses, they should be greatly rewarded.
  • Eight great actresses, one smart director, one look, and many surprising styles. Forget the plot, just enjoy beautiful audiovisual entertainment. ...with class. The songs were a surprise, and a pleasant one for that, they right away took the attitude of watching the film to a different dimension. To have fun, to see great and beautiful actresses and to just take things without being overly serious...8 Femmes is the ticket.
  • A movie launched in 2002, "8 femmes" was the establishing movie for François Ozon. Through his movies, from his medium-length film "See the Sea" (1997) to "8 women" (2002) to "the criminal lovers" (1999), he developed his own style based on surprise. In short, his aim is to surprise the spectator. With this movie, we can say that he reached his goal and it is probably his most accomplished movie. It is also a movie that confirms the originality of his cinema.

    First of all, "8 women" is a movie that surprises by its tone breaks. It means that Ozon passes from drama to comedy with great ease just like Jaco Van Dormael with "Toto the Hero" (1991). As for the songs, they are totally unexpected. Which other director would have included musical numbers in a detective movie?

    As for the influences of the movie, they are numerous. Of course, this film is an adaptation from a play that evokes the Agatha Christie universe but Ozon felt like scattering his movie with all kinds of allusions: Vincente Minelli, Douglas Sirk (the deer in the garden). These allusions are especially linked to French culture: the French TV program "au théâtre ce soir" but also Jacques Demy (the bright colors, the songs) and French cinema before the "new wave". More than allusions, they are tributes from a director who once said "I don't care about new-wave".

    François Ozon also plays with the spectator, a bit like Hergé with the Tintin album "the Castafiore Emerald". He holds him spellbound until the end of the film either by leading him on wrong tracks, either by giving him clues that seem to make the movie progress, and this until the final revelation that turns out to be unexpected and amazing. Besides, given the conclusion, Ozon's movie can be considered in its whole as a farce with absurd humor. The best example involves Danièle Darrieux. At the beginning of the movie, she seems to be disabled but then she stands up and walks without any difficulty for an important part of the movie!

    The movie is also powerful thanks to its dialogs. On this point, beware of the poster where these 8 women have a smiling countenance! These witty and sometimes ironical dialogs reveal these women's real personality that mainly rests on selfishness. Furthermore, the actresses have a spare time in the shoes of their respective character (Isabelle Huppert is particularly irresistible).

    Ozon also left high and dry several details that have, in the long run nothing important (and it is a compliment): we don't know at what time the movie takes place. Several points of the movie show it: the songs composed at different times. Then, certain elements of scenery and dialogs seem either dated either modern. In another extent, we never see the face of the sole man in the plot.

    In the end, "8 women" is an unrealistic, timeless and unique movie and surprise to see this movie meet commercial acclaim in France. François Ozon by imposing his style so peculiar remains more than ever a filmmaker to follow.
  • Francois Ozon directed this interesting and occasionally lighthearted film, "8 Women." It stars Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Béart, Fanny Ardant, Ludivine Sagnier, Virginie Ledoyen, and Firmine Richard.

    The film takes place during a winter in 1950s France where a family congregates for the holidays. Unfortunately, Gaby's (Deneuve) husband is found dead with a knife in his back. Kind of killed the holiday spirit.

    Since the dogs didn't bark, it must have been someone known to the family. They can't go to the police; the phone line was cut and they are snowed in.

    As they try to figure out the identity of the murderer, we learn that each woman has a secret, which is revealed during the film. They all had motives.

    Could it have been Augustin, the dead man's sister-in-law, who lives with the family? How about his beautiful wife? His mother-in-law who is confined to a wheelchair? The chambermaid who, when she lets her hair down, is even more stunning? Or perhaps the housekeeper, loyal but hiding a powerful love? One of his two daughters? His own sister, who runs a brothel? The women discuss who inherits, and multiple motives for murder, and little by little, rivalries, tears, passions, infidelities, and musical numbers emerge.

    Ozon has given us a look into the female psyche, and he has employed some of France's great actresses to do it. The colors are bright, the women and clothing gorgeous.

    As someone pointed out, the French do not fear casting older women. Danielle Darrieux was 85 when she made this film; She is now 98 and did a film in 2010. Some French people live a very long time - I think it's the wine.

    Deneuve, 59 here, is stunning, very elegant and regal. Fanny Ardant as Pierette is gorgeous and sexy, displaying dry wit and disdain for convention. Emmanuelle Beart is the insubordinate, sexually adventurous (according to her) maid who transforms herself during the film, as does Augustin (Isabelle Huppert), the homely sister-in-law. Firmine Richard, a formidable black actress, does an impressive job with the role of Chanel, the housekeeper who finally reveals her secret.

    They are all so wonderful -- French women to my mind have a very earthy, worldly quality as well as sophistication. When one thinks of some American actresses in comparison, they seem like plain vanilla. It's a generalization, I know, and we do have some fine actresses, but I think the mindset of American show business is focused on youth and typecasting.

    This film is enjoyable because of the cast and the look of the movie. I can't say the music was fabulous or even fit this story. It was a touch of whimsy and the upbeat tunes were fun. There were some sad ones, too. C'est la vie.
  • RATING: ***1/2 out of ****

    Being what it is, it seems like Francois Ozon's "8 Women" would have everything going against it. After all, the premise is hardly original and every single plot twist is predictable and derivative. There are plenty of Agatha Christie movies (not to mention the wonderful play "The Mousetrap") to offer us what "8 Women" promises as a mystery. Although I can't say if a murder mystery musical of this type has been attempted on film before, the musical numbers in this film are a bit awkward and stick out like a sore thumb. With all of this, "8 Women" would seem almost repellent. Truth be told, I loved every minute of it. The setting is Christmas in the mid-1950s, and seven women are gathering in the country home of Marcel (Dominique Lamure). There is his wife Gaby (Catherine Deneuve), who has just brought one of her two daughters, Suzon (Virginie Ledoyen) back from college for the holiday. Anxiously awaiting her are her peppy sister Catherine (Ludivine Sagnier), her disabled grandmother Mamy (Danielle Darrieux), her neurotic aunt Augustine (Isabelle Huppert), cook Madame Chanel (Firmine Richard), and newly hired maid Louise (Emmanuelle Beart). All of them, although not always on the best terms with each other, seem intent on having a good time this Christmas.

    Too bad for them. As is customary to happen in movies with a large mansion housing many guests, Marcel (the only man in the house), is murdered. The phone line has been cut, the car has been sabotaged, and the weather is such that no one can scale the wall surrounding the grounds. One person, however, does get in: Marcel's sister Pierrette (Fanny Ardant), who arrives with a story (which may or may not be true) that she got a call the night before saying that Marcel had been murdered. It becomes apparent that the murderer is one of these 8 women, and it is up to them to tell the complete truth and find out everyone's secrets so that they can find out who the murderer is.

    It's high time we have a film like "8 Women", a maliciously absurd exercise in high camp. It succeeds even... no, especially when it fails. The story itself is the kind of murder mystery that has been filmed over and over again in previous years, but it's impossible to get enough of. This film handles all of the conventions with the perfect Christie-esque tone. It's still as fun as ever to point fingers at various possible suspect, and "8 Women" is just predictable enough that even the least experienced viewer can partake in the fun.

    And with this cast, why shouldn't we have fun? One of the main purposes of this film is to let these eight actresses simply enjoy themselves, and their wicked glee comes through on screen. I wonder if Francois Ozon was at all able to keep his authority as director during shooting. For let such fantastic actresses loose on each other, allowing all of them to inhabit such bitchy individuals, one had better stay out of their way. It is said that the best comedy relies on surprise. Be assured, "8 Women" wreaks such delectable havoc on it's premise that there will be plenty of opportunities to ask: "Did I really just see that?"

    This film knows a secret that we haven't seen many low-key projects like this successfully handle in recent memory: when in doubt, just sing. The musical numbers have varied success throughout the film. All pop up sporadically and never really find a way to come to a conclusion, but each one is a highly enjoyable bonus aside to everything else that's going on.

    In "8 Women", the first rule is: there are no rules. It's infinitely meaner (and much more enjoyable) than its non-musical predecessor "Gosford Park". It's hilarious in its maniacal irreverence, and it is yet another example of a film that would fall flat on its face if it were not for the actors leading the way. If I am going to be seeing a murder-mystery-musical, I would want none other than the cast of "8 Women" at the helm.
  • Beneath the plot, the acting and the singing, the movie is even more enjoyable with some references. (1) While combinations of actresses of that caliber are almost unheard of anywhere, the older actresses have intersected before - and mock their prior common roles. In particular, Darrieux played Deneuve's mother twice before; Darrieux' role as the mother in Demoiselles de Rochefort, Les (1967) parallels that played by Deneuve here. (2) The actresses each mock one of their own mannerisms and/or that of one of the other actresses. For instance, Ledoyen imitates the hand movements typical of Deneuve in the 1960s and 1970s. Look also for the pairs matched in the back-to-back dance near the end - more clues! (3) Each actress also imitates one famous star or style of American cinema of the era (that is, the 1940s-1960s). Most obviously, Béart imitates Jeanne Moreau in Journal d'une femme de chambre, Le (1964) and Ardant imitates Rita Hayworth (e.g., Gilda (1946)). (4) The linchpin between these actresses, via various directors, is Romy Schneider. The picture that Deneuve picks up from Béart's apron is Schneider's. Basically, you may enjoy the film (or not) on the first degree, but for better or for worse, it is full of references. The good news, for cinephiles, is that the references are a lot broader and a fair bit more subtle than the typical Hollywood-to-Hollywood, Cinecita-to-Cinecita or Hong Kong-to-Hong Kong navel gazing.
  • Yes indeed: these ladies, girls and dames are gorgeous!

    Before I saw this film I read about its production history and the basic idea of this great director (Ozon) to realize (another) remake of 'The Women' ('The Opposite Sex' was a 50s attempt) ... Not being able to get the rights for this old favorite of many 'old Hollywood movies' fan, he decided to give it a try with his own plot ...

    Boy did he succeed!

    Yes, the story and its twists are delightful ... BUT: when has anyone of us seen so many French movie legends in one film? ... Being so utterly seductive, entertaining, tragic (yes, this IS a drama mesdames et messieurs movie goers!) and glamorous beyond comparison ...

    The costumes, make ups and hairstyles are prime examples how to 'introduce' the characters through her appearance ... The set and the light setting all provide the perfect backdrop for each character's special, personal story... Not enough that we learn though their words what they suffered through their short or long lives for a little bit of warmth and love -- they even sing it to us! ...

    Of course, these singing acts border the ridicule at times -- but not because they are badly interpretated or written, but merely because the average movie goer is more used to TV-'showbiz' and 'action' flicks from the 'new' Hollywood and usually skips anything that appears 'artsy' or (beware!) black and white ...

    Ozon deserves highest praise for his bravery to give us such a lush production that is surprisingly vintage in so many aspects, yet timeless in its main message: love hurts!

    What irony that it had to be a French director and an entirely French cast to show jaded Hollywood what quality and style really are! ... Then again: doesn't that have tradition? ... Where did all those great directors and authors in the past come from, if not from Europe (Wilder, Lubitsch, von Sternberg etc.)? ...

    I found it terribly refreshing to see the un-dubbed French version in the U.S. ... Though I also saw a very nicely dubbed German version, which perfectly matched voices (and character) by great, reputable German actresses with their French counterparts, it was unsurpassed fun to hear those great Ladies of the French Cinema act out all their charm, seductiveness and humour with their purring, excited and bewitching voices...

    An almost private highlight is the little sequence showing that this is actually a movie with 9 women ... Remember when Louise (Emanuelle Beart), the smouldering maid, drops a photo from her cleavage the and explains that the lady in the picture was her former employer/mistress? ... None else than the legendary Romy Schneider is this very lady! ... Romy, who so died in 1983, leaving a tragic life behind her and a legacy of wonderful movies to her fans would have been certainly a top choice for Ozon to put into his masterpiece ... What a charming innuendo!

    So, for everyone who has not seen this film: rush and behold the beauty! ... For all of you who have already seen it: go again, if you can ... I sure know that this movie will go straight on the top shelf of my collection as soon as it comes out on video or DVD ... Cheers Julia
  • While this isn't a great film, and at times it was just too "talky", I strongly admire the attempt by those involved to make something different. The movie is an odd blend of several types of films and the end result certainly is odd. Imagine taking an episode of MURDER SHE WROTE or an Agatha Christie novel as your basic plot. Then, combine it with the movie THE WOMEN--add a little sexual farce--then throw in a few really silly song and dance numbers and you get this movie! The songs are generally, very silly and in some cases sung by women who have no right singing on film--and that, to me, makes them even entertaining by their downright cheesiness.

    The 8 Women happen to consist of the household where the only man, Marcel, is found dead. Which one of these women is responsible is unknown and from then on, the movie slowly unravels its many bizarre plot devices--bisexuality, incest, adultery, name it. While the film is in no way explicit, they certainly talk about a lot of vices so this isn't the best film for the kiddies! Interestingly enough, the producers for this French film must have "broken the bank" to secure the talents of so many famous and high-salary actresses. While only Catherine Deneuve will be known to the average American, several other cast members are among the top box office draws in France and includes Isabelle Huppert (who is, without a doubt, the funniest and best character among the 8), Emmanuelle Béart, Fanny Ardant and Danielle Darrieux (as the second funniest character). The other actresses, while less famous, equip themselves well in the movie.

    Despite some lulls and a completely unbelievable plot, the movie keeps you guessing and is well worth finding. Certainly far from perfect, but fun nevertheless.
  • It is nearing Christmas when Gaby and teenage daughter Suzon return to their home. Her husband Marcel is poorly but he has allowed Gaby's mother Mamy and Aunt Augustine to remain in the house as well – with maids Chanel and Louise to help with the guests and his other daughter Catherine. With all these women in the house, minor squabbles break out but nothing compares to the tension when Louise discovers that someone has murdered Marcel. With the house cut off by snow and the phone lines cut, it is clear that one of the eight assembled women must have done the murder – but with so many motives and so much suspicion, who could it have been?

    Even if you have not seen any of these types of films or plays, the set-up will be familiar as a sort of drawing-room "one of us is the murderer" affair and indeed that is exactly what it is, in the tradition of Agatha Christie I suppose. However what Ozon's film does is take the staples of this genre and plays with them to produce a richly comic, colourful and enjoyable exaggeration thereof. Unlike some reviewers, I did not find it roaringly funny but did find it continually amusing. The plot could have been played straight and thus is good enough to hold the interest as a genre piece but it is the delivery that makes it enjoyable and engaging. While some of the songs are a bit ropey, their delivery is all slightly ott and fun for it. It also helps that the whole film is full of rich colours, again giving it the feel of a play, happening right in front of you.

    Of course as with any play, a lot does rest on the cast and here we are not disappointed as the starry cast mostly "get" what the film is trying to do. Deneuve is great as the wife while Darrieux enjoys her character a great deal. Béart and Ardant both stick in the mind easily because they have a great lingering sexuality to their characters that they bring out well (Béart is particularly impressive at this game and it was here that I twigged how stunning she is). Huppert is enjoyable but I didn't like the changes her character undergoes at the end. Ledoyen is very good with her character but I wasn't so taken with Sagnier – she was OK but I thought she had the least to work with.

    Overall then an enjoyable and lively take on an occasionally dry genre. The plot is solid enough to be interesting but it is the delivery across the board that adds colour, vitality and fun to the mix – from direction through set design to of course the performances. Not hilarious but consistently amusing and entertaining.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    For the final week of ICM's Musical Challenge,I started checking lists for Musicals I may have accidentally overlooked. Finding his 2014 "Woman's Picture" The New Girlfriend to be a tantalising affair, I was intrigued to stumble on a Musical by auteur François Ozon,which led to me meeting each of the eight women.

    The plot:

    Meeting up in the family mansion for Christmas, Gaby,Louise, Augustine, Catherine and Suzon decide to keep their disagreements with husband/father Marcel to themselves. Shattering the Christmas spirit,the family members and maid Chanel find Marcel with a knife in his back. As each women circles each other with suspicions, (and all the roads are cut off) they hear a knock at the door and greet fellow Marcel's sister Pierrette,who has somehow been able to reach the mansion.

    View on the film:

    Taking the project after originally planning to remake George Cukor's The Women,co-writer/(with Marina de Van) directing auteur François Ozon & cinematographer Jeanne Lapoirie keep the film rooted to a "Woman's Picture" atmosphere,via Ozon startling colour-coding stylisation unveiling Ozon early use of lush colours that pop on the screen,with each woman being dressed to her most elegant. Keying in on the mystery in one location, Ozon and Lapoirie knock down stage limitation with darting camera moves making the quirky Musical numbers appear from nowhere,and stylish whip-pans closing on the suspicions the eight women have for each other.

    Gathering the women from an adaptation of Robert Thomas's play, the screenplay by Ozon and Marina de Van break all the household rules with a deliciously dark comedic line underlying the classical Murder Mystery setting, via the dialogue having a peculiar tone,with each of the women revealing their inner challenges as the murder victim lays upstairs.Set against the classical backdrop of the family mansion, the writers turn the setting inside out with a sharp wit peeling away at every clue each family member has, to reveal an ingenious twist ending.

    Coming from all eras of French cinema from Poetic Realism,New Wave and the 2000's,the ensemble cast each give impeccable performances. Hammering home the family rules, Danielle Darrieux gives a fiery performance as Mamy, whilst François Truffaut muses Fanny Ardant and Catherine Deneuve light each other up as Femme Fatale Pierrette,and the calculating,icy Gaby. Joining in the mystery, Emmanuelle Béart spins a kooky turn as Louise,while Isabelle Huppert superbly makes Augustine the outsider in the family,and Ludivine Sagnier gives a sexy kooky edge as Catherine,in the mystery of 8 women.
  • What sort of film 8 Women is depends on whom you ask. Some may call it a whodunit, some may call it melodrama and yet others may call it a postmodern who's-who. But it's not really any of these. It is a quite uncategorizable French film that's in parts murder mystery, in parts musical. In any case, it's a searing, enjoyable character piece exploring 8 fascinating female figures.

    Presumed to be set in 1950s France, eight women assemble at their countryside home ready to spend Christmas together. But the celebrations are put on hold when Marcel, the only man in the house, is found stabbed to death in his bed. Since it's snowed in, it's clear that one of the eight women committed the murder. Fueled by this fear, the eight women begin to interrogate each other, and as they do, the real meat of the story unfolds. Suffice it to say, nothing is what it seems.

    8 Women takes a set-up that Agatha Christie made famous in books like "And Then There Were None" and plays with it in a very tongue-in-cheek way. At the same time it still, astonishingly, manages to be very moving. It takes itself just seriously enough, as evidenced by the movie's most famous trait; the song and dance numbers. Each woman gets a little song sequence to herself, in which she gets to revel in her character. It should be noted that all of these are already well-known French songs, such as "Pile oú face" sung by the minxish Emmanuelle Béart in her iconic maid's outfit, and "Toi jamais" by Catherine Deneuve. The brilliance of these scenes is that unlike in most musicals, the characters are very much aware that a song and dance is going on. When the movie's first song kicks in, the mother enthusiastically starts dancing along, to the grandmother's consternation, and afterwards can be heard humming the chorus to herself. It's a cheeky breaking of the 4th wall that has not its like in any other movie. These music scenes give a great charm to the movie, so much so that there was even a soundtrack album released.

    The murder mystery is the movie's setup, but far more important are the women themselves, as evidenced by the title. 8 Femmes is as much a story about the female psyche as it is a crime drama, and each of the eight women is a fascinating character in her own right. Of particular note, though, is the high-strung, hypochondriac spinster Augustine, performed by an electrifying Isabelle Huppert. Fanny Ardant is then spellbinding as the victim's estranged sister Pierette, a femme-fatale who seems quite above the drama most of the other women are up to their necks in, but delights in taking part in it. Catherine Deneuve is also strong as the matriarch, Gaby, who struggles to keep her well-ordered world from falling apart as more and more secrets are revealed. Adultery, lesbianism, incest, the plot only thickens every time someone opens her mouth.

    If all the above seems like a very far-fetched blend, that probably stands to reason. But everyone involved is determined to tell this ridiculous story with love and passion. The cast is all big French names, young and old, which is something Hollywood could definitely learn from, from the young and vivacious Ludivine Sagnier as the victim's bratty teenage daughter Catherine to grande dame Danielle Darrieux in the role of the spiteful grandma. This movie is one of the reasons why there are awards for ensemble casts, and indeed the film garnered the Silver Berlin Bear and the European Film Award for this very reason. These actresses and their characters are the heart of the film. The delivery is sharp and biting across the board, and thus the film is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny on many occasions.

    8 Femmes is, at the end of the day, a riveting mish-mash of film genres, told both with love, intrigue and tongue firmly planted in cheek. It's a fascinating, slightly self-conscious tribute to both film genres and actresses as much as it is an entertaining crime story. Parts of it will ask you to suspend your disbelief, but even so, the film reels back in even its biggest doubters with a superb plot twist towards the end. Still, what's important here is to what the movie's title so aptly pertains; the eight women. Let them take you on a ride you are unlikely to ever forget.
  • maure6 January 2003
    A beautiful, shimmering, silently comic film with a hint of farce and a galloping great slab of French cinema ironic nostalgia. All great film making is here only better. Great cinematography, wonderful set and costume design and let's not forget Deneuve, Ardent, Huppert and Beart at their imperious best.

    It is so refreshing to see an honest heart felt film that nods with passion and pride to the movies that made some of us want to be film-makers in the first place. It doesn't challenge or depress it inspires and entertains.

    I love this movie.

    I love its simplicity, its unflashy command of the medium ( at a time when over contrived camera is all the rage) and most of all I love its heart. This is a film made with an unpretentious passion and love of subject that is all but smothered today.

    More of the same from us English speakers would be nice but I fear unlikely.

    Vive Francois Ozon, and the magnificent cast and crew. Thank you very much for reminding me why I became a film maker.
  • '8 Women' is one of those rare films the kind of which one doesn't come across too often. The story sort of follows an Agatha Christie style in the 50s. Director Ozon does an incredible job of telling the story in a satirical way by taking advantage of stereotypes and making it into a musical.

    The murder suspects include suspect's wife (Catherine Deneuve), her sister (Isabelle Huppert), his mother (Danielle Darrieux), his sister (Fanny Ardant), his two daughters (Virginie Ledoyen and Ludivin Sagnier), his cook (Firmine Richard) and his chambermaid (Emanuelle Beart). Each character is something that sets her apart, either a lesbian, or pregnant, or a con, or a seductress or unfaithful and so on. The cast includes some of the biggest names in French cinema and all 8 women deliver electrifying performances full of humour.

    The film goes pleasantly over-the top with the Agatha-Christie and the 50's formula. The colourful art direction is delightful. The dialogues are superbly creative and the spacious cinematography, especially the long shots and closeups are skillfully done. The songs are rightfully set in the scene and splendid to watch. Ozon also makes some interesting references to cinema of the 50s mostly through the characters' gestures, costumes and make-up.

    One does not have to be a fan of musicals or French cinema to appreciate the beauty of this film. With excellent writing, a lovely cast of beautiful actresses and lots of colour, it is hugely entertaining with loads of fun and something that I would like to revisit.
  • paul2001sw-117 March 2007
    How do you update the Agatha Christie-style country-house murder mystery? One approach was seen in the movie 'Gosford Park', which kept the British period setting but added a note of social realism, as well as the talents of just about every leading contemporary British actor. Francois Ozon's 'Eight Women' features a similarly rich cast of French acting talent, updates the setting to the present day, but in contrast to Robert Altman's movie, keeps more of the contrived conventions of the Agatha Christie novel. Specifically, this means a ludicrous plot, characters who act for paper thin (or indiscernible) motivations, an absence of believable dialogue or emotions and a continual round of unprovoked revelations that serve to make everyone a suspect. Ozon doesn't play this dead straight, at times he has fun with the absurdities of the genre, but not really enough fun to make up for the fundamental ridiculousness of the whole construction; and in merging the mystery with another genre, the musical, he creates a more distinctive film although it has to be said that the musical elements never really feel wholly integrated into the rest of the movie. Overall, it's a bit of a waste of the distinguished cast: they all enjoy hamming it up, but frankly, this is not a film where an ability to act is actually that important.
  • nycritic18 August 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    Much like the lightweight tone that Alfred Hitchcock took with filming NORTH BY NORTHWEST after his very heavy-handed VERTIGO, Francois Ozon, a completely different film-maker who shot to international acclaim in 2000 with his introspective drama SOUS LE SABLE, decided to do a 180-degree turn and tackle a musical in the 1950's vein. 8 FEMMES begins with a montage of flowers seen up close and some very Mancini-like music in the opening credits announcing each and every one of the eight female leads, and recreates, inch by inch, a visual splendour that Douglas Sirk would have cheered. Fake snow, fake backdrops, a picturesque mansion, and the most harmless little deer this side of Bambi bring forth this atmosphere of shallow artifice, and this is only the beginning.

    Immediately he moves into the house and introduces the players, women who are a part of a household, who dominate the scene with their very presence. Each one of them dressed in bold, distinctive colors, with diametrically opposed tempers to match, all gathering for a night of intrigue and catfights over the state of affairs of the man whom they are all related to -- Marcel -- who has apparently been killed by a knife in the back. As the day progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that all of them, including frail old Mamy who it seems is not an invalid and can walk quite well and Pierrette, Marcel's sister who lives nearby and enters the film in with a truck load of secrets beneath her cool facade, has a motive to have killed Marcel.

    Agatha Christie's spirit channeled in a musical? You bet. And what a rollicking ride 8 FEMMES is! Garish and melodramatic, a product from the land of Technicolor, and boasting wacky performances that only get more complicated as things progress and layers of lies are peeled away. The cast is something concocted out of a fantasy of casting: there's Catherine Deneuve who plays Gaby, a catty snob, wife to Marcel and gets to utter a completely outrageous line to Isabelle Huppert who plays her sister Augustine: "I am rich and beautiful, while you are ugly and poor." Danielle Darrieux, a grand dame of movies since the Forties, is a hoot as Mamy, and there is a hysterical scene where after a confession to Huppert's character goes horribly crazy, Deneuve whacks her on the head with a glass carafe (or bottle?). Virginie Ledoyen and Ludivine Sagnier play daughters to Deneuve who may not have the same father; Emmanuelle Beart is Louise, the quintessential exaggeration of a French maid complete with a kissable pout, Firmine Richard plays the house maid who has her own secrets and is a dead ringer to Louise Beavers in essence. Then there's the outstanding Fanny Ardant, a more smoldering, sensual incarnation of Katharine Hepburn (and looking just like Hepburn circa 1949 when she made ADAM'S RIB), who enters the movie at the right time to get things really complicated and who later on has one of the best moments on film: a catfight with none other than Deneuve herself.

    8 FEMMES is an excessive movie made for film buffs who know about excess in the form of color, campy performances, and who love watching female icons getting bitchy with each other. All of the performances have their moments of high and low, but Huppert not only takes the cake -- she grabs it, runs for the nearest exit, and gobbles it whole in one gluttonous gulp and she acts like she knows it. Deneuve is quite acidic in her role -- it's been light years since she's been "just the pretty ingénue" from the days of THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG. Older, with sharper features, and yet still regal and cool with a "what the hell" attitude. But above all of them there is Ozon, someone I was not aware of until recently, and whose films I'm enjoying the more I see them, bringing this time capsule as if he himself were impersonating Vincent Minnelli or Robert Wise himself. A perfect ooh-la-la of a movie.
  • Beautiful costumes, an excellent décor, a suspicious mood and a perfect "crime". is what could make a good French movie.

    The fabulous end of this home-based murder set in France's 1920's or 30's made me wonder I ever tried to figure out who the criminal was, ... being a fan of Lady Christie's Hercule Poirot.

    Wonder if some police inspector or grey-celled detective would have found some space among the characters? Obvious answer : NO ! ... Wouldn't like to see a man come singing among those ladies.

    The cast is just perfect, and the generational mix calls for much applause, easily fitting into the emotional transition, with each suspect revealing her untold secret involvement and contribution to the crime; Isabelle Huppert beautifully justifies her eventual best female performance at the 2003 "Césars" as the victim's sister-in-law, and is practically acquitted, as a 'bad girl' image is voluntarily attributed to her.

    The complicity between head servant Madame Chanel (Firmine Richard) and Pierette, the victim's sister, beautifully played by Fanny Ardant, brings many questions, though it is known that classic beneficiaries of a rich man's murder are his wife and children, payed by well-known French star Catherine Deneuve a and sisters Suzon (Virginie Ledoyen) and Cathérine (Ludivine Saigner).

    Although Mamy (Danielle Darrieux), the victim's mother-in-law, and Louise (Emmanuelle Béart) the maid have their own secrets, they seem to have little to fear, except a possible collective crime.

    Whatever you like or hate about those crimes committed and solved at home, without external help, director François Ozon's movie will satisfy anyone who appreciates good costume designing adapted to a certain époque which saw those passionate crimes.

    I still think our victim died for his crimes anyway, though what a pity for that 8th woman who remains innocent and uninvolved afterall, except if....... she should think out her initiatives with more psychology.
  • theflash-114 February 2003
    I'm sorry for the last person to comment, as they are American, and therefore have no sense of irony. I LOVED '8 Femmes'! It's tongue-in-cheek humour, the well-formed characters, the brilliant acting; all absolutely faultless. It certainly had me and the rest of the audience laughing out loud throughout. And the scene between Catherine Deneuve and Fanny Ardant was sexy and funny at the same time. Quite an achievement. Americans, stick to your Bruce Willis and Arnie blockbuster films, leave us Europeans to enjoy our quirky and intelligent films such as this.
  • I don´t want to write about a plot, because I guess: 1. most of the people, who will read this, have already seen it 2. this film really isn´t about a plot. This film is about style and 8 great French actresses - each of them is one good reason, why you should see this film. The best way how to "use" this film is just to sit and enjoy it. You don´t need to think (but this doesn´t mean that there is nothing to think about), you can only watch - luxurious interiors,great looking dresses and haircuts... and you can smile - sometimes, when I read other reviews, I have a feeling, the writer have seen a different film -THIS IS NOT A DRAMA, IT´S A COMEDY (very absurd)!!! It has a style of hollywood musicals from golden era of 30´s and 40´s, but in the same time it´s not american, it´s still very French film, with the specifiec antmospehere, which French films usually have. And my last word: more french film to czech cinemas!!!
  • Strange film with amazing casting and the sign of a great director. Exploration of a delicate universe, fragile, dangerous, dark and egocentric, definition of woman and trial of feelings, gestures and illusions. Fruit of a play in which nuances are more important than colors, games of memories and intentions more relevant than reality, dreams and desires as cages of Bovaric scenes.

    French taste and sweet shadows in manner of Agatha Christie. Fragments of a ambiguous world and old fires in morning light. A murder, duties and fear, small sins as protective wall, the other as pray, fight with yourself and splendid collection of sentimental guns, traps, expectation and delicate hate. The essential advantage- the presence of woman's secrets in the skin of Ozon's art.

    A cruel, nostalgic and subtle film with seductive air of old melodramas, satirical traces and ash circles in snow.
  • I love French films (my wife is French). And many of the user comments here are from people who seem to hate everything French, and yet still adore this film. I have rarely been so bored and irritated with a film. There's a superb cast, and the original play (the film is almost 100% a filmed play) appears to have been a great idea. But the numerous songs (although well-performed by the cast) are so disturbing and irrelevant and unlikely, I just couldn't stomach the film. It's very surreal in an unjustifiable way. Luckily I saw it on video and fast-forwarded the later songs, but, had I seen it in the cinema, I doubt I could have feigned sufficient toilet visits to have tolerated the film.
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