8 Femmes (2002)

2002? Really? I saw this in the theater and didn’t realize it was three years ago already.

Alas, I lack archive guy’s critical chops – so I’ll just do “a couple of thoughts”:

[li]Damn. Catherine Denueuve and Fanny Ardant.[/li][li]Speaking of Catherine Deneuve, her bosom was practically a ninth woman. (Ninth and tenth?)[/li][li]I’m a straight female, BTW[/li][li]Apparently, all the songs are popular French hits of the period.[/li][li]Loved the visuals – the flat three-dimensionality of it[/li][li]And the clothes were great[/li][li]Artificial as hell – but it worked for me[/li][/ul]

What did y’all think?


Just in case I’m not the only person who actually watched this.

Well, I finally watched it. (spoilers to follow)

That was a very weird movie.

It was like a 1920s musical with 1950s clothing and sets and modern production values…in French (just to add to the surreality of the whole thing).

I’m not sure what to make of it. I can imagine seeing this as kind of a melodramatic spoof of old murder mystery movies, if they cut all the musical numbers. We had the mysterious cabin, the technicolor like sets and costumes, the over-the-top confessions and revelations (“I’m a lesbian,” “I’m pregnant with my father’s child,” “I slept with my brother when we were kids, but we’ve stopped now that I’m out,” “I killed my husband”), the meaningful pauses and glances. The stuff that bad movies used to be made of, taken one step further. If they’d stopped there, it would have been funny.

But then they added the musical numbers. (When you said they’re from “the period,” which period are you talking about? And what do they put in the water in France, because I can’t imagine Augustine’s song being a hit anywhere, any time) They obviously weren’t integrated, but they didn’t even blend in. The movie stopped dead for the songs, the actress (not character) would sing something vaguely kind of related to her situation (but not feeling and never the larger plot), multiple ensemble characters would join in badly choreographed dances, and then the song would stop dead, and the movie would try to pick up again from where it left off, pre-song. If the director was trying to make a point, I missed it. More than anything, it was jarring because even the bad American musicals that I’m familiar with try to mix in the songs more carefully than that.

But I did love the costuming.

Thanks for reviving the thread, amarinth.

I didn’t get a chance to revisit the film so I’m going off of memory, here, but I remember enjoying the film quite a bit (until the end; see below). I liked how highly stylized it was, with the melodramatic trappings and the vibrant costuming (as well as the cinematic in-jokes). I liked, generally speaking, the energy and the stagings of the songs (most of which I still can picture now). Ludivine Sagnier’s was goofy fun, Firmine Richard’s was genuinely moving, and Emmanuelle Beart’s was bursting with sexual tension. The songs themselves struck me as mostly trifles (and I didn’t know they were period songs at the time), but lyrical poetry often translates quite poorly in these cases, so I didn’t make too big a deal of them. There wasn’t anything particularly “deep” about the interiority each song provided the characters, but I liked that each woman got a showpiece and I liked that the styles of songs varied in interesting ways. I also admit to being a bit of a sucker to all-female ensemble films, since they’re so rare (especially compared to all-male ensemble flicks) that I just revelled in not only the dynamics, but the truly impressive breadth of talent (and beauty) involved.

But the ending struck me as so incredibly misogynist as to leave an incredibly foul taste in my mouth. After the husband/father shoots himself for real,we’re regaled with a closing number depicting how women are the source of all disaster for men, as if this provided a justification for his final act. The campy in-fighting and catty arguments take an immediate sour note once Ozon starts painting the entire gender with an equally unflattering brush. And this was a guy, after all, who not only carried on with mistresses, but even had a sexual relation with one of his daughters, IIRCAnd he’s the victim? Yuck. What slowly develops from a drawing room mystery to a soapish satire with buried emotions revealed suddenly takes an ugly turn into an anti-female screed. Is that what the final thesis of the film is? If it wasn’t, he wouldn’t end the story with a song sung in unison emphasizing this sentiment. For a film to be so generous with its female talent, only to undermine them with such a hateful lasting message struck me as a creative decision as gratuitous and insulting (to the audience as well as its subjects) as any of the “feminist” pandering that comes out of Hollywood.

Ozon has a bit of a critical reputation, but his latest films (this, Swimming Pool, 5x2) all reek of gimmickry, pretending to be about something but never really taking much of a stand. He benefits mostly from the naunces his talented casts provide, and Under the Sand is the only film of his I’ve yet seen that I’d ever consider revisiting for enjoyment’s sake–though I might consider doing so with 8F since I now know to stop the film 5 minutes early.

Since we’re talking about musicals, I should also mention that this is a kind of musical that you never see in the states–one where the cast members very clearly have varied (and often limited) musical talent or experience. There’s something very appealling in the candor and fearlessness of such an approach, but it can be a decidedly mixed bag for the audience. The only recent American example I can think of similar to this was Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You, but such a thing is much more common in Europe. Jeanne and the Perfect Guy (which uses the lovely Viriginie Ledoyen better than Ozon does) and *The Other Side of the Bed* are just a few other recent examples of normal people (some who can’t sing or dance better than I) being game enough to give the genre a shot. They’re not great films by any means (though they’re more topical in their subject matter and more generous in their sexual frankness), but I still enjoy them because they’re not slick or glitzy the way most modern American musical efforts are.

Okay, at the risk of sounding like a total dumbass – how do you see the movie as being anti-female?

Are you sure of it? I don’t remember this particular event (and a lot of the characters in the movie are lying through their teeth during most of the film, so even if it’s said at some point, it might eventually turn out that it’s actually a lie.
I’m not going to comment on the move, because honestly I don’t remember much about it. I found it was OK.

Also, I believe (but I’m not sure anymore) that this movie was originally a theater play (which explain the way the movie is made).

By the way, I don’t remember the songs, either. So, I couldn’t tell whether or not they were famous hits. I’ll ask the friend with whom I watched the movie, if I remember to do so.

Well, like I said, it has been a couple of years, but the revelation, from what I remember, was made by Virginie Ledoyen’s character herself, in a moment of genuine candor and she always struck me as the least deceptive of the group.

Yeah, my take on that was that she was telling the truth at that particular moment.

Got an email today from Lamia, who’s let her membership lapse while she concentrates on school. It would be against the letter and the spirit if the rules of the Dope to cut and paste the whole thing (hm, where’s the angel smiley?) – but she did remind me of one plot point:

Specifically, on the question of Suzon’s (Virginie Ledoyen) pregnancy: Suzon does say that her own father is the father, which Lamia buys (as do I). However, as Gaby (Deneuve) reveals, her husband Marcel is not actually Suzon’s father in the first place. She was already pregant by a previous (deceased) boyfriend when she married him. Marcel knew this when he began the affair with Suzon, although Suzon did not. So while it wasn’t biologically incest, it was still psychologically incest, and creepy as all get out.

Lamia also mentioned that they’re doing a stage version of 8 Femmes in Japan, replicating the looks and costumes of the women in the movie down to every last thread – albeit with Japenese actresses. Hmm…

I saw this quite a while ago, so have doubtless forgotten large chunks. Just something I picked off the shelf from the video store or library. I was surprised, after watching it, to realise how modern a film it was. It has a very retro feel, but I suppose that was intentional. I thought that they “mystery” was very transparent, but it was a fun, campy film nonetheless. And some tres belle femmes.

I saw this quite a while ago, so have doubtless forgotten large chunks. Just something I picked off the shelf from the video store or library. I was surprised, after watching it, to realise how modern a film it was. It has a very retro feel, but I suppose that was intentional. I thought that they “mystery” was very transparent, but it was a fun, campy film nonetheless. And some tres belle femmes.