View Full Version : Eight women short of brilliant . . .

John DeSando
10-31-2002, 05:40 PM
If you cannot forget Catherine Deneuve’s devastatingly beautiful wife in “Belle Du Jour,” then don’t ruin that image with her silly wife of the victim in the Agatha Christie rip-off, director Francois Ozon’s “ 8 Women.” Then again, if you can’t forget the sexual demons of Isabelle Huppert’s recent “Piano Teacher,” don’t let yourself be disgusted at her over-the-top parody of a similar character, the prudish sister in “ 8 Women.”

And the film goes on and on with other French greats like Emmanuelle Beart as the vixen maid and Fanny Ardant as the sexy sister. As in American films that pack in the stars to offset thin material, such a cast as “8 Women” is usually a tip off to that weakness. The eight women are French delicious, but the vacuous music and the eventually boring Technicolor 50’s look conspire with the trite script to make you appreciate the genius of “The Mousetrap’s” 50 years in the West End.

According to the who-done-it formula, each woman is a suspect; according to the musical formula, each one gets a musical number. According to this film, each one is forgettable at those moments. Unforgettable, however, is when rivals-in-real-life Deneuve and Ardant, whose characters are enemies, wrestle to gain control of a handgun, but end up kissing and caressing each other. Or when Deneuve says of Huppert’s character, “I’m beautiful and rich. She’s ugly and poor.” These good moments are all I can remember.

One of Ozon’s inspirations may have been Jacques Demy’s Technicolor smasher, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” The satire here serves only to show Demy’s mastery of the effect.

Ozon probably was also inspired by Douglas Sirk’s highly-melodramatic “Imitation of Life”—a better inspiration would be not to do this lame musical/mystery/star turn in the first place. Maybe Ozon should have seen Todd Haynes’s recent remake of Sirk’s “All that Heaven Allows,” called “Far from Heaven,” a successful parody of the 50’s, set and themes and all.

“8 Women” is eight women short of the brilliant turn by one woman last year, Charlotte Rampling, in Ozon’s superior “Under the Sand.” Too many babes, too little material this time around.

Chris Knipp
11-23-2002, 02:43 AM
I agree with you right down the line about what's good and not good about this movie, and you put it all so well. I personally was a bit upset by seeing the devastating Huppert in such a prissy, downright silly role, though I admire her willingness to laugh at herself and throw off the femme fatale looks and manner for a spell -- she's courageous in everything, even in this. I admire Deneuve; she always looks so miraculous, if a bit plump, or even because a bit plump. But it all seemed pretty pointless to me, and I didn't really get off on the musical interludes, surreally absurd though they successfully managed to be. I went to the movie expecting something more of a mystery thriller. Probably what we have to look at is that this was a stage play made into a film. It never ceases to be that, and whatever power it had as a stage play, this is only a glitzy record of the play that doesn't work as well without the immediacy of the stage. Sometimes a thetrical mystery is so rivetingly well constructed that simply filming it is enough. That isn't at all the case with "8 Women." Even getting the most famous French film actresses to play the roles isn't enough. But as elegant entertainment this isn't half bad. For me it was a reasonably good ending to an evening with a beautiful woman that began with a tasty meal.

When you move on to discuss other movies I somewhat part company with you. I'm not sure I can quite agree that "Far from Heaven" is either "a successful parody of the Fifties" or is meant as one, though that's an interesting idea and I certainly wish it were true. I also can't quite agree that "Under the Sand" is enormously superior to "8 Women," or half as wonderful as people seem to have thought, but it certainly is superior, and a good deal more cinematic.

You're right about nearly everything though, and most of all about what's going to be remembered from this movie.