8 WOMEN (François Ozon, 2002) Rating: NNNN
The eight women of the title are Danielle Darrieux, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Fanny Ardant, Emmanuelle Béart, Virginie Ledoyen, Ludivine Sagnier and Firmine Richard. From the octogenarian Darrieux, who was a star in the 1930s, to the 22-year-old Sagnier, the cast spans four generations of French movie stars. The American equivalent would be the cast of The Hours (Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, Allison Janney) plus Katharine Hepburn, Julia Stiles and Angelina Jolie. And there's none of that multiple-plot-line stuff where none of them meet. Just lock 'em in a house and have 'em try to solve a murder that one of them may have committed.
Hyper-theatrical and as stylistically retrograde as Far From Heaven, 8 Women is campier than the Todd Haynes film (French drag queens will be doing scenes from it for decades), but also rampantly fun. I'd trade most of this year's films for the moment when Ardant opens her black coat to show the scarlet lining. And watch for the controlled fury of Huppert's performance in the back of the frame when she's not the centre of attention. It's not the new Amélie, and Ozon is certainly capable of a much deeper emotional commitment to a film, as in Under The Sand or See The Sea, but this is one of the year's most satisfying entertainments. Oh, and it's a musical. Really. (December 13-17, Bloor)