For a long time, the idea of making a film with only actresses had been on my mind. After having seen again Cukor’s THE WOMEN, I had checked into the rights to the theater play on which the film was based. I soon learned the remake rights had already been taken for several years in Hollywood by Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan. So I abandoned my project of doing a French version of THE WOMEN. But thanks to the help of Dominique Besnehard, I discovered 8 FEMMES, a 1960s crime play. 8 FEMMES was written by Robert Thomas, a writer somewhat forgotten but who had his moment of glory in 1970s mainstream French theater and who made his fortune when one of his plays was bought by Hitchcock. (Unfortunately, the adaptation never happened due to Hitchcock’s death.)
8 FEMMES instantly seemed ideal for my feminine film project. From the play, I mainly kept the setting and a simplified version of the story. I’ve tried to strengthen the humor, deepen the characters and add complexity and modernity to the rivalries and family problems between the eight women. I wanted to make a comedy combining a classic crime thriller with Agatha Christie-like intrigues and a closed environment where the murderer is among the group. But underneath this surface, I wanted to paint a light and amusing reflection on femininity, actresses, class struggle and family secrets.
Like WATER DROPS ON BURNING ROCKS, 8 FEMMES is an anti-naturalist film which focuses on stylization and the artificial to heighten feminine beauty and glamour. All the actresses had to be of the kind of beauty that makes the audience dream so that the cruelty and horror become even more colorful, meaningful and strange.
Placing the action in the 1950s helped give credibility to the extravagant situation of these eight “caged” women, as well as to the story’s wild twists and turns, and as much to the film's artificial effects. But the French 50s, often in black and white (like in the somber films of Julien Duvivier, Jean Delannoy or Claude Autant-Lara), are less of a reference than the technicolor of Vincent Minelli musical comedies and the flamboyant Douglas Sirk melodramas.
The songs of 8 FEMMES, performed by the actresses but arranged in 50s style, help to distinguish the time period. The songs also allow each character to unveil her inner life, as a sort of monologue both moving and comic.