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1001 Overlooked Movies - 8 Women (2002)

Francois Ozon's musical comedy murder mystery.

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


At a wealthy country estate during Christmas break, a family and their servants are getting ready to celebrate the holidays when the owner of the house is found dead with a knife in his back. Foul play is mentioned and the eight women involved have all become suspects. As the night goes on, secrets about each women will be revealed, the truth about the murder will be solved and some songs will be sung.
The suspects include Gaby (Deneuve), who plays the recent wife of the victim, Catherine (Sagnier), Suzon (Ledoyen) and Augustine (Huppert) as the victim's daughters, Pierrette (Ardant) who is the victim's sister, Louise (Beart) and Madame Chanel (Richard) are the chambermaid and cook of the estate. The last suspect is Mamy (Darrieux), the matriarch of the household.
Right from the lush sweeping score of its opening credits we are put into the time frame of a late fifties style mellow drama, something in the style of, say, Douglas Sirk. But this is not going to be anything too dramatic as the story progresses. After the opening credits, and the camera has zoomed into a window outside of a large estate, we are inside what looks like a staged replica of a living room. Notice how everything on set, including the chairs, seems to be facing towards the camera, ie the audience. Even the actors are placed in a way that makes this look like a stage play that happens to be filmed. I admire the risk Ozon and crew took with shooting the movie this way. Most other directors when adapting a stage play would have had the whole stage element removed, but this one runs with it. This style is completely intentional and if you are not hooked on this gimmick by the end of the first musical number, then this movie is not for you. I was not expecting this to be a musical when I first watched it, and at first it was a little strange. But luckily most of the songs were catchy enough for me to stick with it.
As the movie went on, I found myself becoming more and more interested in each of the women's side story more than the mystery about who killed the owner. That element is nothing more then a macguffin (think of the suitcase in 'Pulp Fiction') and nothing more.  Each of the actresses do a real nice job with their roles and for the most part each of their own songs were enjoyable too. I'm not going to rush out and buy the soundtrack, but in the context of this movie they work perfectly.
The director of this musical is Francois Ozon, who made the thriler 'Swimming Pool' (also staring Sagnier) and the comedy 'Potiche' (also starring Deneuve). He is known for not doing the same type of movie twice and with '8 Women' he has created a musical that stands apart from more recent entries in this genre, while also paying homage to some of the well known classics. The opening credits are done in the same kind of style as 'My Fair Lady', with a bright pastel like hue to the look of it. The cinematography through the rest of it uses a lot of bright primary colors that remind me a lot of 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg'.  It's a very underrated musical that more people should watch and I hope to see more movies with this kind of style too.


The official '1001 Movies' list includes the following movies from 2002 - Gangs of New York, The Pianist, Talk to Her, City of God, Russian Ark, Adaptation, Far From Heaven, Chicago, Hero, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Distant, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Irreversible, Bus 174


The Vern
For more from The Vern, check out his site 'The Vern's Videovanguard'.

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