Top critical review
on 15 June 2015
In an isolated yet well-appointed country manor house, sometime in the fifties, a death has occurred. The suspects are the various members of the victim's family, along with a maid and housekeeper. The eight women of the title (who are in every scene, in pairs, trios, or as a group) are played by several of the finest actresses in France today, from the legendary (Deneuve, Ardant) to the merely brilliant (Beart, Huppert) to the very promising younger (Ledoyen, Sagnier) and including the veteran doyenne of living actresses (98 at the time of this review) Danielle Darrieux, as well as the excellent Firmine Richard, so memorable in Romuald et Juliette.
This is a fairly disfunctional family, with slight overtones of The Addams Family - weirdly precocious teenage daughter, vampish mother, crazed aunt.
Ozon is one of France's most eclectic, unpredictable directors, but he bit off a little more than he could chew here. The acting's mostly fine, with Sagnier (who was to be even better in the same director's Swimming Pool), Beart, Ardant and Darrieux particularly impressive, Huppert having a ball as the aggressive, frustrated aunt, and Deneuve a mite stodgy but still good as the corpse's husband. (I've never quite bought into the Deneuve cult: an ice maiden can sometimes be exactly that.)
Oh yes! Each sings a song from the period, along with an appropriate dance routine or set of simple moves. Sagnier, Beart, Darrieux and Ardant score here.
The whole thing is a pretty bonkers conceit, and half comes off, though when it doesn't it feels like a very bad idea indeed. Camp it most certainly is, good fun it is most of the time, and I was rarely bored (though any longer and I might have thrown something at the screen).
A film to see once, marvel at its nerve and verve, wonder at the poise of both Darrieux at 85 and Sagnier at 22, be (as I was) rather let down by the denouement, with its inevitable, not very surprising twist, and wish it could have been that much better - either even camper or simply more abandoned and shocking. Heaven knows what the French made of it.
It's unique, I'll give it that.