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Mon October 28, 2002
"8 Women" is eight women short of the brilliant turn by one woman last year, Charlotte Rampling, in Ozon's superior "Under the Sand."
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
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.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time" and vice-chairs the board of The Film Council of Greater Columbus.