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Francois Ozon, France, 2002, 103 minutes
Take eight superb grand dames of the French film world, add Francois Ozon - the campest director since John Waters and simmer lightly at room temperature for a few hours. Sit back and enjoy the glorious results...
Eight Women is quite simply one of the best, lightest and most enjoyable French films of the last few years (yes I would even say it competes pretty damn strongly with Amelie). Boasting sumptuous glaring 50's Technicolor styling and some of the greatest frocks seen on film for the last 40 years this is pure pleasure from the very start. The Agatha Christie-esque plot concerns Marcel. The thing is, he's dead. And since there's a snowstorm trapping the eight women in his life in his house, it must have been one of them that killed him. His tomboy daughter Catherine (Ludivine Sagnier) takes charge pointing out the many reasons that everyone seems to have had for killing her father. And there really are many, many, many reasons.
Now if this sounds like a run of the mill murder mystery then that's because I haven't mentioned the rest of the cast and their particular ways of expressing themselves.
There is Marcel's wife Gaby (Catherine Deneuve) who's a hand-jive maniac. There's her formidable mother Mamy (screen legend Danielle Darrieux). Then there is Catherine's sister Suzon (The Beach's Virginie Ledoyen), Marcel's seductive sister Pierrette (the lovely Fanny Ardant) and Gaby's bookish sister Augustine (Isabelle Huppert in delightfully catty form). Then there's the staff - the family cook Madame Chanel (Firmine Richard) and finally Marcel's incredibly unhelpful maid Louise (the glorious Emmanuelle Beart) whose main job appears to be posing in fetish maid's outfits.
And so the farcical fireworks (and singing, and dancing) begins. Each of the women gets a tune and, yes, they do sing it themselves. This may not make for the most incredibly professional level of singing or dancing but it's a hell of a lot of fun. And as everything starts to get very bitchy and goes distinctly pear-shaped in ridiculously silly ways it just gets better...
Review by Nicola Osborne
Written for EUFS Programme Autumn 2003