One murdered man, eight women, each seeming to be more eager than the others to know the truth. Gimme, gimme, gimme some clues to make up my mind. And eventually enter the truth. Oh, thou cruel woman!
Storyline One morning at an isolated mansion in the snowy countryside of 1950s France, a family is gathered for the holiday season. But there will be no celebration at all because their beloved patriarch has been murdered! The killer can only be one of the eight women closest to the man of the house. Was it his powerful wife? His spinster sister-in-law? His miserly mother-in-law? Maybe the insolent chambermaid or the loyal housekeeper? Could it possibly have been one of his two young daughters? A surprise visit from the victim's chic sister sends the household into a tizzy, encouraging hysterics, exacerbating rivalries, and encompassing musical interludes. Comedic situations arise with the revelations of dark family secrets. Seduction dances with betrayal. The mystery of the female psyche is revealed. There are eight women and each is a suspect. Each has a motive. Each has a secret. Beautiful, tempestuous, intelligent, sensual, and dangerous...one of them is guilty. Which one is it?
Opening Weekend: $52,088
(13 August 2002)
(22 October 2002)
Did You Know?
When Louise shows a photo of her former employer, it is a picture of Romy Schneider.
Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers):
On two occasions the ladies refer to the gun as a revolver but it is clearly a semi-automatic pistol.
[in French, using English subtitles]
I'm going in, Mom.
These ladies kick ass!
'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.