8 Women

dir. Ozon

Opens Fri Oct 4

Various

There is so much to love about 8 Women--and despite the all-female cast, one need not be a woman to adore it. One must simply hold the tiniest kernel of curiosity about what makes a woman tick. All is told to those who pay attention to the film's striking yet subtle nuances of color, and the transformations of wardrobe, hairstyles, and necklines that signify the unspoken language all women learn, recognize, and silently file away when at least one other woman is with us in a room.

On the surface, jealousy is the combative common ground the film's eight women share in the home of a murdered man--who is a husband, a father, a brother, a son-in-law, and a philanderer in relation to the various characters. Pampered wife Gaby (Catherine Deneuve), in the autumn of her attractiveness, enters the room swathed in the beiges and browns of camel's hair and leopard fur. It's Christmastime, and her green dress with its portrait collar seems at first festive, as her college-aged daughter Suzon (Virginie Ledoyen) arrives dressed in red-and-white wool plaid. Gaby's youngest daughter, Catherine (Ludivine Sagnier), spends most of the film dressed in crisp blue pajamas as she plays junior detective, hoping to discover which woman killed her father. Soon after his body is discovered, a green car is shown sitting in the driveway--right around the time the victim's sister Pierrette (Fanny Ardant), a vivacious strumpet, arrives in a tight red dress.

The women candidly sing and dance to their inner feelings, while hiding away their jealousies or hurling bold suspicions at one another. Costume adjustments--buttons coming undone as emotions burst forth, layers stripped to reveal softer underpinnings--speak as loudly as the women do, becoming a narrator for the film and demonstrating once more the silent language that bonds the eight very different personalities as they rage and roil, desperate to prove their innocence.

One of the sweetest aspects of 8 Women is its knowledge that no matter how hateful women are to one another, down inside we share a deep compassion and understanding that no man will ever fathom. Men will leave and women will take them away, but eventually, all men expire, leaving us to bloom with grace and empathy for our sisters, no matter what their actual relation may be.