Francois Ozon

 Francois Ozon
Francois Ozon's 8 Women, a campy murder mystery/musical, is about as far away from his last movie (Under the Sand) as one could imagine. That film dealt with one woman's unimaginable grief after losing her husband, and was as sombre and serious as the subject matter indicates. With 8 Women, Ozon's created a film that's light and fluffy and that, though it does go on a bit too long, proves that he can deftly handle different genres. Set in the 1950s, the film's opening credits suitably set the tone for what's to follow. Glittery and flowery, they're completely over-the-top and entirely reminiscent of ‘50s Douglas Sirk melodrama. But Ozon's not content to simply throw in contemporary themes into a retro structure; 8 Women works as an effective musical, with each character given the opportunity to sing. The story line is equally old school: the sole male in a family dominated by women is found murdered one morning, and the remainder of the film is rife with revelations, petty arguments, and even a little romance. Ozon has assembled an amazing cast of past and present French actresses, led by Danielle Darrieux, who's first movie was made in 1931 and has since appeared in over 100 features. Darrieux plays Mamy, the matriarch of the family, though her senior status doesn't prevent the others from suspecting her at one point. Her two daughters-in-law Gaby and Pierette (Catherine Deneuve and Fanny Ardant) have never gotten along, due mostly to Pierette's jealously of Gaby's wealth and marriage. Mamy's own daughter Augustine (Isabelle Huppert) is a bitter and sarcastic spinster, who pretty much suspects everyone in the house of doing the deed. More daughters appear in the form of Gaby's children, Suzon and Catherine (Virginie Ledoyen and Ludivine Sagnier), both of whom take on the role of detective in trying to determine who the killer is. Rounding out the cast are a couple of servants (Firmine Richard and Emmanuelle Beart), the latter of which has quite a few secrets of her own. The story line itself isn't anything special – it's the sort of thing that Agatha Christie cornered the market on decades ago – but the impressive cast and catchy songs just about make 8 Women worth watching. The movie's based on a play by Robert Thomas, and it shows. The entire film takes place in this overblown house, and (for a while, anyway) it's entertaining enough due to the frantic pace employed by Ozon. For pure camp value, there are a lot of elements in 8 Women that warrant a look; the inclusion of some decidedly contemporary themes into this old-school atmosphere will certainly elicit laughter from those familiar with the ‘50s melodrama. But the novelty eventually wears off, and the constant fighting becomes somewhat repetitive and it becomes impossible to even care who the murderer is. Still, there are the songs, all of which are very well done and incredibly catchy. And though the choreography that accompanies the songs is a little stiff (putting it kindly), each number brings up the energy level of the film considerably. And who knew Catherine Deneuve could sing so beautifully?