In 8 Women, the master of an isolated French chateau appears to have been murdered, and an octet of formidable femmes, snowed in with the stiff on a twinkling 1950s night, set about suspecting one another between bouts of singing 1960s French pop songs and dancing their pretty gams off. Was the killer Catherine Deneuve as the dead man’s wife, Gaby, a steely vision of bourgeois couture elegance? Or the redoubtable Danielle Darrieux (who played Deneuve’s mother 35 years ago in ”The Young Girls of Rochefort”) as the tight-fisted mother-in-law of the deceased? Or that fierce individualist Isabelle Huppert, apparently taking mad fashion cues from ”SCTV”’s Edith Prickley as Gaby’s pruny spinster sister? Both of Gaby’s restless daughters – played by Virginie Ledoyen and Ludivine Sagnier – are suspects. So is Fanny Ardant as the late monsieur’s sultry sister. And don’t rule out the domestic staff, including Firmine Richard as a secretive housekeeper and Emmanuelle Beart as an all-too-pert chambermaid.
It might as well have been Miss Scarlet in the library with a knife, for all that the whodunit matters in this stylish parlor trick, concocted by filmmaker Francois Ozon (”Under the Sand”) from bits of George Cukor’s ”The Women” and old Hollywood musicals. (The screenplay is loosely based on an Agatha Christie-like theater contraption by Robert Thomas.) What does matter is that a phalanx of France’s most famous actresses play a gay peekaboo with their own images in the guise of replicating a ’50s technicolored production (as well as the cattier casual misogyny of a hundred pre-PC girl-scratching-girl scenarios). The result is weightless entertainment that’s both camp and true, a warped adoration of star-quality actresses as amazing creatures who can project the lives of fictional characters as well as the essence of their own fabulous selves. Hollywood, start your remake.