8 Women

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8 Women
8-femmes-poster.jpg
French theatrical release poster
Directed by François Ozon
Produced by Stéphane Célérier
Olivier Delbosc
Marc Missonnier
Written by François Ozon
Marina de Van
Based on Huit femmes 
by Robert Thomas
Starring Danielle Darrieux
Catherine Deneuve
Fanny Ardant
Isabelle Huppert
Emmanuelle Béart
Virginie Ledoyen
Ludivine Sagnier
Firmine Richard
Music by Krishna Levy
Cinematography Jeanne Lapoirie
Editing by Laurence Bawedin
Studio Canal+
Celluloid Dreams
Distributed by Mars Distribution (France)
BIM Distribuzione (Italy)
Focus Features
Release dates
  • 6 February 2002 (2002-02-06) (France)
  • 20 September 2002 (2002-09-20) (United States)
  • 17 October 2002 (2002-10-17) (Italy)
Running time 111 minutes
Country France
Italy
Language French
Budget €8,460,000
Box office $67,770,154[1]

8 Women (French: 8 Femmes) is a 2002 French dark comedy musical film, written and directed by François Ozon. Based on the 1958 play by Robert Thomas, it features an ensemble cast of French high-profile actresses, including Danielle Darrieux, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Béart, Fanny Ardant, Virginie Ledoyen, Ludivine Sagnier, and Firmine Richard. Revolving around an eccentric family of women and their employees in the 1950s, the film follows eight women as they gather to celebrate Christmas in an isolated, snowbound cottage – only to find Marcel, the family's patriarch, dead with a knife in his back. Trapped in the house, every woman becomes a suspect, each having her own motive and secret.

Ozon initially envisioned to film a remake of George Cukor's 1939 film The Women, but eventually settled on Thomas's Huit femmes after legal reasons prevented him from doing so. Drawing inspiration from Cukor's screwball comedies of the late 1930s and the 1950s work of pioneering directors such as Douglas Sirk, Vincente Minnelli, and Alfred Hitchcock, 8 Women addresses themes like murder, greed, adultery, and homosexuality, mixing the genres of farce, melodrama, musical, and murder-mystery film. Primarily set in the entrance hall of a manor-house, the film recreates much of the play's original theatrical feeling. It also references as a pastiche of and homage to both the history of film and the actresses' filmographies.

The film's premiere was held on January 8, 2002 in Paris, where the filming had taken place. 8 Women was one of the films competing for the Golden Bear at the 52nd Berlin International Film Festival, where its all-female cast was awarded the Silver Bear. Released to widespread critical acclaim, with major praise for the stars, the film was nominated for twelve César Awards including Best Film. At the 2002 European Film Awards, the film was nominated for six awards including Best Film and Best Director; it won for Best Actress for the eight main actresses.

Plot[edit]

The film is set in the 1950s in a large country residence, as a family and its servants are preparing for Christmas, when the master of the house is discovered dead in his bed, with a dagger stuck into his back. The murderer must be one of the eight women in the house at the time, and in the course of the investigations each has a tale to tell and secrets to hide.

The scene opens with Suzon returning from school for Christmas break, finding her mother Gaby, her younger sister Catherine, and her wheelchair-bound grandmother Mamy in the living room, where most of the action of the film takes place. Their conversation drifts to the subject of the patriarch of the family, Marcel, and Catherine leads the first song of the film, "Papa t'es plus dans le coup" (roughly, "Dad, you're out of touch"). The singing wakes up Suzon and Catherine's aunt Augustine, who picks arguments with the rest of the family and the two servants (Madame Chanel and Louise), eventually returning upstairs, threatening to commit suicide. Mamy jumps out of her wheelchair, trying to stop her, haphazardly explaining her ability to walk as a "Christmas miracle." Augustine is eventually calmed down, and she sings her song of longing, "Message personnel" (Personal Message).

The maid takes the tray upstairs, finds Marcel's stabbed body, and screams. Catherine goes up to see what happened and locks the door. The others finally go up to Marcel's room to see him stabbed in the back. Catherine tells the others that they should not disturb the room until the police arrive so they re-lock the door. Realizing that the dogs have not barked the night before, it seems clear that the murderer was one of the women in the house. Attempting to call the authorities, they find that the phoneline has been cut, and they will have to go in person to the police station. However, the women are distracted by the announcement that someone is roaming in the garden, who for some reason, the guard dogs are not chasing. The person turns out to be Marcel's sister Pierrette, a nightclub singer who is also rumored to be a prostitute, and has not been allowed to the house before, due to Gaby's dislike for her. When questioned, she claims she received a mysterious phone call, telling her that her brother was dead; she also sings "A quoi sert de vivre libre" (What's the point of living free?), commenting on her sexual freedom.

It is realized that she has been to the house before, as the dogs did not bark and she knew immediately which room belonged to her brother, making her the eighth potential killer. The women try to start the car, and find that it has been sabotaged, cutting them off from help due to the snowstorm outside, until they can hitchhike to town when the weather clears. The women spend their time trying to find the murderer amongst them. It is discovered that Suzon in fact returned the night before, to tell her father in secret that she was pregnant. She sings a song to Catherine, "Mon Amour, Mon Ami" (My Lover, My Friend), about her lover however, she has in fact been abused by her father. We later find out that, unknown to everyone involved excluding Gaby, Suzon is not his child, and is actually the child of Gaby's first great love. Gaby reveals that he was killed not long after her conception and that every time she looks at Suzon, she is reminded of her love for him.

Suspicion then swings to Madame Chanel, the housekeeper, whose actions the night before seem suspicious; it is revealed that she has been having an affair with Pierrette, who went to see her brother that night to ask for money to pay off her debts. When some members of the family react in outrage to the fact that she is a lesbian, Madame Chanel retreats to the kitchen, and sings "Pour ne pas vivre seul" (So as to not live alone).

In the meantime we find out that Mamy, Suzon's and Catherine's "old and sick" grandmother, not only can walk but also possesses some valuable shares that could have saved Marcel from his bankruptcy. Out of greed she lied that her shares have been stolen by someone who knew where she was hiding them. The spotlight moves to Louise, the new maid, who is found out to be Marcel's mistress. She declares, however, affection for Gaby, but also expresses disappointment in her for her weakness and indecision. She sings "Pile ou Face" (literally Heads or Tails, but referring to the Ups and Downs of life), and removes the symbols of her servitude, her maid's cap and apron, asserting herself as an equal to the other women. Gaby sings "Toi Jamais" (Never You), about Marcel, saying that he never paid enough attention to her, while other men did; it is revealed that she had an affair with his business partner Jacques Farneaux, the same man who has been having an affair with Pierrette. The two women get into a fight that turns into a passionate make-out session on the living room floor, which the others walk in on and are stunned.

Eventually, Madame Chanel discovers the solution to the mystery but is silenced by a gunshot; she is not hit but goes mute out of shock, while Catherine takes the lead, revealing that she had hidden in her father's closet, and had seen the other women all talk to Marcel the night before, and explains the mystery: Marcel had faked his own death, with her help, to see what was really going on in his house. She claims that he is now free of the other women's clutches, and rushes into his bedroom, only to see him shoot himself in the head, in absolute dismay. Mamy ends the film with the song "Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux" (There is no happy love) that reunites all the women involved as they grab hands and face the audience.

Cast[edit]

Musical numbers[edit]

  1. "Papa t'es plus dans le coup" (Dad, You're Out of Touch) - Catherine, Company
  2. "Message personnel" (Personal Message) - Augustine
  3. "A quoi sert de vivre libre" (What's the Point of Living Free?) - Pierrette
  4. "Mon Amour, Mon Ami" (My Lover, My Friend) - Suzon
  5. "Pour ne pas vivre seul" (So as Not to Live Alone) - Madame Chanel
  6. "Pile ou Face" (Heads or Tails/Ups and Downs) - Louise
  7. "Toi Jamais" (Never You) - Gaby
  8. "Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux" (There is No Happy Love) - Mamy

Production[edit]

Ozon was inspired by the 1950s Ross Hunter productions of Douglas Sirk and Alfred Hitchcock. To achieve the look of the latter two director's films, Ozon had costume designer Pascaline Chavanne fashion an original costume for each character. Chavanne was inspired by Dior's New Look[2] and the earlier film costumes of Edith Head.[3] Composer Krishna Levy also provided an instrumental score evocative of Bernard Herrmann, with touches of Miklos Rosza and Elmer Bernstein,[4] as well as a soundtrack featuring eight songs performed unexpectedly by the film's title characters.

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

8 Women received generally positive reviews from critics. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 78% of critics gave the film a positive rating, based on 115 reviews, with an average score of 6.9/10. Its consensus states "Featuring some of the best French actresses working today, 8 Women is frothy, delirious, over-the-top fun."[5] On Metacritic, which uses a normalized rating system, the film holds a 64/100 rating, based on 30 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6]

Jonathan Curiel of the San Francisco Chronicle remarked that 8 Women was "a movie that is so original, so funny, so alive with drama, intrigue, mystery and colors that you want to see it again and again", citing it the "new masterpiece" in Ozon's filmography.[7] Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, gave 8 Women three out of four stars. He noted that the film "is in no sense serious about murder, its plot, or anything else. It's an elaborate excuse to have fun with its cast," adding: "Watching 8 Women, you have a silly grin half of the time." He concluded that "Movies like 8 Women are essentially made for movie-lovers. You have to have seen overdecorated studio musicals, and you have to know who Darrieux and Deneuve and Beart and Huppert and Ardant are, to get the full flavor."[8] Lisa Schwarzbaum from Entertainment Weekly felt that "what does matter is that a phalanx of France's most famous actresses play a gay peekaboo with their own images in the guise of replicating a '50s technicolored production. The result is weightless entertainment that's both camp and true, a warped adoration of star-quality actresses as amazing creatures who can project the lives of fictional characters as well as the essence of their own fabulous selves. Hollywood, start your remake."[9]

Washington Post writer Ann Hornaday called the film "a gorgeous, if disjointed, spectacle, made endurable—if not entirely comprehensible—by its eye-popping cast." She found that the picture "retains a stagy quality of heightened theatricality" and that "with its bold, luxurious palette and hard-candy surfaces, the film seems less photographed than forged out of silk and nail lacquer."[10] Rolling Stone's Peter Travers concurred: "All eight women are something to see and marvel at. Whatever you call this one-of-a-kind bonbon spiked with wit and malice, it's classic oo-la-la." He rated the comedy three out of four stars.[10] A. O. Scott from The New York Times said, "The high-minded critical term of art for such a decadent delight is 'guilty pleasure,' but a movie like this reveals that stuffy phrase to be both a redundancy and an oxymoron. 8 Women is indefensible, cynical, even grotesque; it is also pure—that is to say innocent and uncorrupted—fun."[11] Less enthusiastic with the film, Salon.com wrote that "despite the all-star cast of beautiful, talented actresses, this French whodunit never lives up to the grand musicals it rips off."[12]

Specific performances were cited for acclaim. Isabelle Huppert's portrayal of Augustine was met with praise.[7] Curiel wrote that "Huppert's song and dance—and her whole performance in the movie—is a study in determination. Huppert has a reputation for her intense portrayals, and in 8 Women, she steals every scene she's in as the uptight, melodramatic, bespectacled aunt."[7] Fanny Ardant also received praise for her performance with Hornaday saying that "the showstopper is Ardant, who in a sensational turn combining the earthiness of Ava Gardner and the fire of Rita Hayworth, explodes with an elemental force all her own. Ardant alone is worth the price of admission to 8 Women."[10]

Box office[edit]

The film was released on 6 February 2002 in France and opened at #3 in 493 theaters, grossing $5,246,358 in the opening weekend. It grossed $18,991,866 in the domestic market. The film's international gross was in total $42,426,583.[13]

Accolades[edit]

Isabelle Huppert won several prizes for her portrayal
List of awards and nominations
Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
Berlin International Film Festival Berliner Morgenpost Reader Jury François Ozon Won
Golden Bear François Ozon Nominated
Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Achievement Cast Won
César Awards Best Actress Fanny Ardant Nominated
Isabelle Huppert Nominated
Best Cinematography Jeanne Lapoirie Nominated
Best Costume Design Pascaline Chavanne Nominated
Best Director François Ozon Nominated
Best Film N/A Nominated
Best Music Written for a Film Krishna Levy Nominated
Best Production Design Arnaud de Moleron Nominated
Best Sound Pierre Gamet
Benoît Hillebrant
Jean-Pierre Laforce
Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Danielle Darrieux Nominated
Best Writing François Ozon
Marina de Van
Nominated
Most Promising Actress Ludivine Sagnier Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Foreign Language Film France Won
Étoiles d'Or Best Actress Isabelle Huppert Won
Best Composer Krishna Levy Won
European Film Awards Best Actress Cast Won
Best Actress (Jameson People's Choice Award) Fanny Ardant Nominated
Isabelle Huppert Nominated
Best Director (Jameson People's Choice Award) François Ozon Nominated
Best Film Olivier Delbosc
Marc Missonnier
Nominated
Best Screenwriter François Ozon Nominated
GLAAD Media Awards Outstanding Film – Limited Release N/A Nominated
Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing in a Feature - Music - Musical Benoît Hillebrant Nominated
Lumière Awards Best Director François Ozon Won
National Board of Review Awards Best Foreign Language Film N/A Won
Online Film Critics Society Awards Best Costume Design Pascaline Chavanne Nominated
Best Ensemble Cast Nominated
Russian Guild of Film Critics Awards Best Foreign Actress Isabelle Huppert Won
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards Special Award Isabelle Huppert Won

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.jpbox-office.com/fichfilm.php?id=1748
  2. ^ "Fifties, French and ultra-feminine". The Age (Melbourne). 11 December 2002. 
  3. ^ "Movie Clothes - 8 Women". A Life At The Movies. 29 August 2010. 
  4. ^ 8 Women soundtrack review at Filmtracks.com
  5. ^ 8 femmes at Rotten Tomatoes
  6. ^ 8 Women at Metacritic
  7. ^ a b c Curiel, Jonathan (17 May 2002). "'8' vibrant actresses bring funny whodunit alive". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (27 September 2002). "8 Women". Chicago Sun-Times. RogertEbert.com. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  9. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (11 October 2002). "8 Women". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c Hornaday, Ann (27 September 2002). "'8 Women': Bonbons With a Wicked Center". The Washington Post. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  11. ^ Scott, A. O. (20 September 2002). "A Stellar Gathering of Femmes Proves a Bit Fatale". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  12. ^ Zacharek, Stephanie (25 September 2002). "A Stellar Gathering of Femmes Proves a Bit Fatale". Salon.com. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  13. ^ http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=8women.htm

External links[edit]