An array of beautiful diamonds and flowers during the opening credits sets the tone- François Ozon’s 8 Women is a welcomed mix of Agatha Christie story and Demy/Sirk aesthetics.
Serves as a sort of who’s who of French cinema in terms of the talented women assembled for the cast. The big ones are Catherine Deneuve (an all-timer, royalty at this point) and Isabelle Huppert (right in her prime here, this lighthearted folly is just one year after Haneke’s The Piano Teacher, so it is fascinating to see those two performances/films back to back). The rest of the cast includes the lovely Virginie Ledoyen, Danielle Darrieux, Firmine Richard, Ludivine Sagnier, Fanny Ardant and just about everyone will recognize Emmanuelle Béart (who has to be just about the most beautiful woman to ever grace the screen (tied with about half the cast here- haha)). They all have their moments (plenty of actor-friendly close-ups), and I believe each has their own musical number—but this is a major resume-builder for no one They have all been better somewhere else at some point.
The set is a sort of doll house- made of a stunning décor- green and gold wallpapers, chic costume design, everyone wearing brooches – all dressed up with nowhere to go.
Confectionary and perpetual fake snow outside their house (the entire murder mystery is really set in one room).
The music is this sort of airy late 50’s or early 1960’s do-wop or pop (the kind David Lynch often evokes).
Everyone is a suspect when the sole male of the house (never shown fully on screen) dies- “the plot thickens” is actually said aloud by one of the women. It is never threatening and there are throwaway lines galore like “we all agreed to tell the truth… so talk”
I’ve mentioned Agatha Christie— also Gosford Park, Knives Out, Deathtrap
The actors do look like they are having a ball (maybe knowing they aren’t all the most talented of musicians), laughing- it is infectious.
The colors (and casting of Deneuve) are Demy
A repeated shot of actors looking out the windowsill at the fake snow—Deneuve has one at the 48-minute mark. This is Douglas Sirk. There is even a light blue old-fashioned car that could be from the 1950’s. Firmine Richard has a similar shot at the 63-minute mark. She’s in green, surrounded by a décor filled with green. At the 93-minute mark they go to the windowsill yet again- this time with Fanny Ardant and Deneuve.
I wouldn’t’ call it a major achievement but Ozon deserves credit for it not feeling stage bound. Though after the ending (which is serious, which feels like a miss and a clash of tone), it does feel like the actors are going to bow to the theater audience.
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