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8 Women
cast: Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle B´┐Żart, Fanny Ardent, and Virginie Ledoyen

director: Francois Ozon

120 minutes (15) 2001 widescreen ratio 16:9
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Paul Broome
It's very rare that stage plays survive the translation to the big screen; the dynamics of one just aren't really suited to the other. The exception is pieces that rely on the characters themselves, and the interaction thereof. 8 Women (aka: 8 Femmes) is a great example of one of those, an all-round class-act effort that has already become a classic of French cinema.
   Everything is set in an isolated French country house, sometime in the 1950s. Young Suzon (Virginie Ledoyen) returns home on Christmas Eve, to be with her mother Gaby (Catherine Deneuve), and wheelchair-bound grandmother Mamy (Danielle Darrieux). Also present is her younger sister Catherine (Ludivine Sagnier), spinster aunt Augustine (Isabelle Huppert), Chanel the nanny (Firmine Richard), and newly hired maid the mysterious Louise (Emmanuelle Béart). After the initial introduction of the characters a shocking discovery is made: Suzon's father is found dead by Louise, and, when they find the phone line cut, the women discover the true extent of their isolation. And why does Pierrette (Fanny Ardant), Suzon's estranged aunt and her father's sister, turn up out of the blue on the doorstep - and who told her about the murder?
   From here on a catalogue of secrets are revealed, with characters changing scene-by-scene - and memorable scenes they are. The image of Deneuve, Sagnier and Ledoyen doing their little song and dance routine, shortly before the discovery of Papa is both hilarious and captivating. This is one of those rare films that features not only great actors giving great performances, but it provides them with an excellent script also. The direction from Ozon is light-handed giving the actresses space to breathe, and the sets are presented very much in a theatrical style. As is common in French cinema, the screen is decorated with a well-defined palette of complimentary and contrasting colours - with each character inhabiting their own portion of the colour spectrum.
   My only problem with the film (and it is my problem) is that it's possible to get so distracted by the sheer beauty on the screen (both the sets and the actresses) that you forget to read the subtitles, and have to keep skipping back in order not to miss subtle plot developments! But, as a problem, that's definitely one that I'm willing to live with. Even the song sequences - which could have turned out incredibly embarrassing - are great.
   If you love French cinema, then see this film. If you love whodunits, see this film. If you love great acting, see this film. In fact, if you are anything other than a complete and utter numb nut, then see this film!
   DVD extras: a surprisingly enlightening interview with costume designer Pascaline Chavanne, short 'music videos' of the eternally lovely Catherine Deneuve singing Toi J'amais and Ludivine Sagnier singing Papa T'es Plus Dan L'Coup, and a very entertaining promo reel/trailer.

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