8 Women

8 Women

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Set in a snowbound mansion, deep in the French countryside, the man of the house is stabbed to death and the phone line cut, leaving three generations of womenfolk from one family, along with a couple of servants, to work out whodunnit. Could it be one of his own children? What did the chambermaid see in the night and why did his estranged sister Pierrette (Fanny Ardant) visit under the cloak of darkness?

This film oozes acting talent, from the elderly conniving Mamy (Danielle Darrieux) and her chalk-and-cheese daughters, neurotic plain Augustine (Isabelle Huppert) and the dead man's wife Gaby (Catherine Deneuve), to the grandchildren, Suzon and Catherine (Virginie Ledoyen and Ludivine Sagnier), and the mysterious maid Louise (Emmanuelle Beart).

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8 Women is redolent of those Agatha Christie drawing room murder movies, so popular in the Seventies, as one by one the women are revealed to be harbouring secrets that implicate them in the dastardly deed. This is no sarcasm-drenched Gosford Park, as these secrets become ever more outlandish, lending the film an air of an affectionate parody, which, despite its ridiculousness, carries the audience along with its upbeat enthusiasm.

Not content with taking a gentle sideswipe at middle-class mystery writing, director Francois Ozon also has musicals and, especially, technicolor in his sights. The outside world is a painted backdrop, each woman wears Fifties-style clothing, with the colours turned up, and, in addition, there is the superb retro score by Krishna Levy. Just in case we miss the point about how stagey and one-room this offering is, each woman gets to sing a song, with some wonderfully stilted choreography... imagine Joan Hickson's Miss Marple suddenly having a go at the hand jive - you'll get the idea.

Ozon's quirky French murder mystery-cum-comedy-cum-musical is a brilliant pastiche on so many genres, it has no right to be as entertaining as it is, or as gripping, but somehow the star-studded cast and ebullient direction keep it skimming along at a feverish pace, which enables you to check your disbelief at the foyer, sit back and enjoy the madness.

Reviewed on: 15 Aug 2002
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8 Women packshot
Eight women, one body and a house full of lies.
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Read more 8 Women reviews:

Jennie Kermode ****
Angus Wolfe Murray **1/2

Director: Francois Ozon

Writer: Francois Ozon, Marina de Van, based on the play by Robert Thomas

Starring: Danielle Darrieux, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Fanny Ardant, Virginie Ledoyen, Emmanuelle Beart, Ludivine Sagnier, Firmine Richard

Year: 2001

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France

Festivals:

EIFF 2002

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