If you have been craving a well-written period murder mystery, then look no further than Radley Metzger’s The Cat and the Canary. However, if your tastes tend toward lush murder mystery musicals, then take a look at 8 Women. 8 Women has plot twists galore, and since I’m not one to spoil, this review will be short.
Set in 1950s France, Suzon (Virgine Ledoyen – La Ceremonie, The Beach), returns home to her family’s countryside estate while on Christmas vacation from school. In short order, Suzon greets her mother, Gaby (Catharine Deneuve – Repulsion, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), her Aunt Augustine (Isabelle Huppert – La Dentelliere, The Piano Teacher), sister Catherine (Ludivine Sagnier – Water Drops on Burning Rocks, Swimming Pool), housekeeper Louise (Emmanuelle Beart – The Story of Marie and Julien, Mission: Impossible), maid Chanel (Firmine Richard – Romuald et Juliette), and grandmother Mamy (Danielle Darrieux – The Earrings of Madame de…).
Later in the film, we are treated to a guest appearance by Fanny Ardant (Vivement dimanche!) as Aunt Pierrette. Shortly after arriving, Suzon’s father, Marcel, is murdered. There are eight possible suspects in the house – all women. Eight women. The murderer could be any one of them, and paranoia quickly sets in as the women accuse each other of committing the murder.
Within this film, writer/director Francois Ozon has crafted a rich, retro, fantasy world. Above all, the costumes and sets are gorgeous. I imagine the mansion resembles what a gay Frenchman would want in a French countryside estate of the 1950s, as opposed to reality. The score feels inspired by Bernard Herrmann, particularly the moody strings of Vertigo. Also, during the course of 8 Women, each character performs a song directed at or pertaining to their relationship with Marcel, my favorites being Mon Amour Mon Ami and Papa T’es Plus Dans L’coup. The musical numbers range from torch songs to early 1960s French pop to slow Broadway numbers – all danced and sung very well by the talented cast.
8 Femmes is a great Friday night flick which may not hold up to repeat viewings, but provides an pleasant escape to another place and another time.