8 Women = one good time
By
Rob Levy
10/21/2002 11:39:24 AM

Since last year’s successful, Amelie, contemporary French cinema has been generally viewed as cute, witty, nicely shot and full of color. This has created audience demand for another funny, witty film export with charm and substance. They have gotten their wish with Francois’ Ozon’s 8 Women.

Ozon previously lensed, Under The Sand and Water Drops On Burning Rocks, two films that have garnered him accolades on the festival circuit. His latest, 8 Women, is his most practical and popular offering to date.

The film centers around a snowed-in villa in 1950s France. There are 8 women, conveniently gathered around Marcel, the family matriarch. All of them possess their own secrets, agendas, and desires. However, holiday plans go awry when Marcel is murdered, the 8 women are snowed in together, and forced to solve the crime.

Each of the 8 women has an aura around them; a dark side and a sad side--all of them struggling inside. Mamy is the family grandmother, who needs her family around her. Gaby is her daughter, who is preparing to leave her husband. She is a strong-willed mother. Suzon is her oldest daughter, returning from England with a dark secret. Her youngest daughter, Catherine is seeking independence and respect. Meanwhile Gaby’s sister, Augustine, lives within a smoldering shell of resentment, sadness, and disappointment. Gaby’s family woes are added to by the arrival of Marcel’s sister, Pierrette, who is Gaby’s biggest rival. The family is also troubled by their hired help, Louise, a very sexy chambermaid, and Chanel, a sort well-tempered, hip French housekeeper.

Combining elements of an Agatha Christie era-thriller with a mild dose of splashy musical whimsy (each woman has a song to perform), 8 Women offers great character interplay that further complements the colorful sets and bright costumes, clever songs, and great acting. This movie is camp eye candy with dark noir tendencies, fun and very sinister at the same time.

It is worth noting that each of the actresses in this film brings a vast repertoire to this project. Catherine Deneuve is a legend in cinema, and 8 Women allows her some breathing room to deliver great work. Danielle Darrieux again teams up with Deneuve, and their tandem talent is both charming and funny. Newcomer Virgine Ledoyen breaks out here as a serious actress. Her Suzon is fragile, strong and alluring. Ludivine Sagnier, as Catherine, the youngest daughter steals the film and is truly an emerging star. However Isabelle Huppert’s portrayal of Augustine, a woman transformed from a neurotic to a diva, really shines here. She breathes the life into 8 Women with the best dialogue and the most to do artistically.

This movie does take a while to get moving, but once it gets its legs, it shoots off. The editing and sound are great. The musical numbers seem a bit ill-timed, however each actress does her number without embarrassment.

Ozon has masterfully directed a large ensemble cast without really leaving anyone out of the loop. He also has managed to place Catherine Deneuve within the confines of an all-star cast and still allow her to shine. The cast really seems to be having a good time, and this is infectious for the audience. See 8 Women for its rich texture and loads of funny moments, and prepare yourself for a French feast of color and sound. This is a big, robust, film, bursting with life.

Focus Pictures, Rated R

 

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