Eight Women

October, 2002, Comedy

Directed by:François Ozon

Starring:Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Béart, and Fanny Ardant

8 Women

This deftly frivolous French comedy-masquerading-as-mystery is a contemporary Moulin Rouge, aimed at those of us in the blue rinse set. 85 year old Danielle Darrieux heads a remarkable collection of French leading ladies, (Catherine Deneuve, Fanny Ardant, Isabelle Huppert etc.) through an Agatha Christie-like romp set in a French country house in the 50's. The man of the house has been murdered at the start of a wintry weekend and the 8 women involved in his life, (a wife, two daughters, the mother and sister in law and a pair of maids) struggle to determine which one of them did him in. The premise is presented with tongue firmly in cheek, and as the machinations of these charming but blissfully nefarious ladies grow ever more preposterous, the audience gets seduced into loving them even more. 

Song and dance routines in the Doris Day style pop up from time to time, as do storyline embellishments which confide to the audience that they're cheering for a murderess, a stripper, a bi-sexual, an adulterer, a substance abuser, etc. While the plot lurches towards ever more improbable but clever revelations about these women's sins, you keep asking yourself why you like them so much…but that of course is a tribute to director Francois Ozon's droll Gallic sense of humor and the spirited work of this marvelous ensemble of femme fatales. Deneuve, at 62, is simply gorgeous; her now voluptuous figure is displayed with wickedly disconcerting effect, and Huppert's metamorphosis from bitchy tattletale to elegant seductress is mesmerizing. Fanny Ardant? Let's just say that every woman in her early fifties should look half this good. 

Indeed, that trio of deliciously mature Gallic beauties posses more sex appeal with their clothes on than an army of young hard-bodied actresses in dishabille, and the fey style of this romp will only enhance the reputation of the French as experts in all things l'amour. Darrieux's final song, ("there is no happy love"), sung as the cast queues in a self-imposed line-up, suggests that if you were stupid enough to fall for any of these delicious creatures, you'd get what you deserve--but what man could resist?


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