8 Women (8 Femmes)
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Hereís a little secret: you donít have to be a film scholar to find good obscure little films. You donít have to know about every filmóbig and smallóthatís come out in every country over the last 100-and-some years. You just need to be up for a little trial-and-error. If you really want to find some hidden gems, in fact, just head to the library. Browse through the racks of DVDs for a while. Take a chance. Because you could just find something as fun and as unusual as this quirky French musical mystery. (And, if you do, I want to hear about it.)

8 Women (or 8 Femmes) takes place in a beautiful French mansion in the middle of a winter storm. Suzon (Virginie Ledoyen) has just returned home from school for Christmas. Shortly after Suzon arrives, the maid goes to wake Suzonís father, Marcel, to announce that his daughter is home, and she finds him dead, with a knife in his back. Marcelís youngest daughter, Catherine (Ludivine Sagnier), an avid mystery novel reader, decides that they need to lock the door to his roomóso no one can disturb the crime scene before the police arrive. But the women soon discover that the phone lines have been cut, the car has been tampered with, and the gate has been locked. Thereís no way to get out to fetch the police.

Eight women are left stranded in the house, with nothing to do but try to figure out who killed Marcel. It could be Gaby (Catherine Deneuve), Marcelís wife, who would inherit the estate of her not-so-faithful husband. Or it could be Gabyís plain sister, Augustine (Isabelle Huppert), or her mother, Mamy (Danielle Darrieux), who often argued with Marcel. Or maybe itís Marcelís estranged sister-of-ill-repute, Pierrette (Fanny Ardant), who wanted Marcelís money. It could also be one of the maidsóor even one of Marcelís daughters.

As the women sit in the quiet house, they begin to point fingers. Itís a movie filled with secrets and lies, suspicions and shocking confessions (one even made me gasp out loud), catfights and wrestling, and formal gowns and furs.

8 Women is a wickedly entertaining, devilishly fun filmómaybe because the eight women stranded in the house have all the dynamics of the cast of The Bachelor. They stand up for each other one minute, and they turn on each other the next. They yell, they scream, they accuse, and they primp. Oh, and they occasionally break out into song.

This definitely isnít your normal, run-of-the-mill movie. Itís bright and colorful and musical. In fact, it reminds me of an old movie starring Deneuve, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg)óbecause itís unusual, but itís well done. While there are a few sub-plots that either donít go anywhere or are entirely unnecessary, the movie as a whole is as fun as a night of reality TV.

Be warned, though, that when you get eight angry women in a room together, theyíre bound to talk a lotóand often very quickly. At times, youíll need to be a speed-reader to keep up with the dialogóso itís not a movie for anyone whoís new to the whole subtitle thingóbut seasoned dialog readers will love this odd little musical/comedy/mystery gem.

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