Opening with pristine pink cursive overlaying shimmering diamonds and colorful flowers, François Ozon's cheerfully retro musical-comedy “8 Women,” premiering in Geneva at the Smith Opera House on Friday The Smith Opera House will screen “8 Women” at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 2, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 4.
Decked out in full '50s Technicolor, the film marries an Agatha Christie murder mystery to Sirkian melodrama, vintage pop musical numbers, and Ozon's own mischievous wit, which sneaks a few dark twists into an otherwise bubbly affair.
Much like “Gosford Park,” the whodunit begins when the rich patriarch is discovered with a knife in his back, and everyone in the house has at least one motive for killing him. Without the telltale tracks in the snow, the murder had to have been an inside job, leaving eight possible suspects to point fingers at each other, revealing a number of shocking family secrets along the way.
Taking her rightful place as head of the household, the ageless Catherine Deneuve plays the victim's wife, whose marriage had crumbled to such a degree that she and her husband occupied separate bedrooms. With the phone lines cut and the car engine sabotaged, Deneuve throws around accusations with the others, including her feisty mother (Danielle Darrieux), her spinster sister (Isabelle Huppert), her Nancy Drew daughters (Virginie Ledoyen and Ludivine Sagnier), and the two chambermaids, one loyal (Firmine Richard) and the other vaguelysinister (Emmanuelle Béart). Fanny Ardant rounds out the cast as Deneuve's sister-in-law, who rushes to the estate after receiving an anonymous telephone call.
Adapted from a stage play, the film recalls Pedro Almodóvar's “All About My Mother,” but the emotions are a little chillier, primarily because Ozon's constant movie references frame everything in quotation marks. A note of genuine sadness sneaks through at the end, but for the most part, enjoying “8 Women” involves coming to terms with its artificiality and learning to appreciate it from a distance.
Though it never received a nomination, “8 Women” was France’s official entry to this year’s Academy Awards.
In French with subtitles, and rated R for some sexual content, this film has a running time of one hour, 42 minutes. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors.
The Smith Opera House is located at 82 Seneca Street in Geneva. Call 315-781-LIVE or toll-free 1-866-355 LIVE for additional information.