They Sing, They Dance, They Kill: Catherine Deneuve and Seven Other Great French Actresses Try to Solve a Murder between Musical Numbers in Francois Ozon's Delicious 8 Women

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8 Women * Written and directed by Francois Ozon * Starring Catherine Deneuve, Fanny Ardant, Isabelle Huppert, and Emmanuelle Beart * Focus Features

Imagine if Agatha Christie had written The Women, and producer Ross Hunter hired Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Jacques Demy to collaborate on a musical version of it in French with an all-star cast. Believe it or not, that's the simplest way to describe 8 Women--the latest and most purely entertaining work from openly gay rising French auteur Francois Ozon. Even if you're not familiar with the names mentioned above, it's hard to dismiss the fun to be had from a movie starring Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Fanny Ardant, Emmanuelle Beart, Virginie Ledoyen, and that most legendary of French actresses, Danielle Darrieux. The only problem is drawing the attention of digital effects-besotted moviegoers. But perhaps they're a lost cause anyway.

It's Christmas and everyone has arrived at the country estate when "Monsieur" is suddenly discovered with a knife in his back. The phone lines have been cut, and a snowstorm makes outside contact next to impossible. So all the prime suspects are nicely arrayed to play the whodunit game. Was it the beautiful but unhappy wife (Deneuve)? The resentful maiden aunt (Huppert)? The mysterious, ultrachic sister (Ardant)? The too-beautiful maid (Beart)? The motherly black housekeeper (Firmine Richard)? The unmotherly mother (Darrieux)? Or are the two principal detectives, the victim's daughters (Ledoyen and Ludivine Sagnier), somehow to blame? It wouldn't be fair to give too much away, but suffice it to say that the usual sort of suddenly revealed secrets is made spicier by the revelation of a lesbian affair or two. Or is it three?

Not that there's anything much at stake in all of this, for Ozon isn't a realist, and the same-sex dalliances he discloses are pure Hollywood fantasy. …