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Film / 8 Women

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"One of them is guilty. Which one?"
— '''French tagline.

8 Women is a French musical comedy murder-mystery film released in 2002, directed by François Ozon and based on the play by Robert Thomas. It stars Catherine Deneuve, Fanny Ardant, Isabelle Huppert, Ludivine Sagnier, Virginie Ledoyen, Emmanuelle Béart, Danielle Darrieux and Firmine Richard.

The film is set in the 1950s in a large country residence, as a family and its servants are preparing for Christmas, when the master of the house is discovered dead in his bed, with a dagger stuck into his back. The murderer must be one of the eight women in the house at the time, and in the course of the investigations each has her own tale to tell and secrets to hide.

The original French title, 8 femmes, was chosen to distinguish it from the 1972 play titled Huit femmes.


This movie contains examples of:

  • The '50s: The 1950's is the decade the story is set in, offering some commentary on the roles and expectations of women during this time period.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: Gaby's lost love and his being Suzon's real father are plot points that didn't exist in Thomas' play. Likewise Mamy killing her husband and how it traumatized Augustine.
  • Adaptational Late Appearance: Because the film excises the introductory conversation between Chanel and Louise, they're no longer the first characters to appear but the third and fifth, respectively. This has a significant effect on Louise, since her character is more initially mysterious than in the play as a result.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: None of the characters were lesbians (nor implied to be anything other than straight) in Thomas' play. This change affects Chanel the most, as her "plausible motive" was originally that she was angry at Marcel and Pierrette for losing a lot of money to them at cards, while in the film it's because Chanel loves Pierrette and suspected she had a relationship with her own brother, which Chanel was jealous of.
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  • Affectionate Nickname: In a rare moment of sisterly affection, Gaby calls Augustine "Titine" while comforting her after Augustine finds out Mamy killed their father.
  • Age Lift: In Thomas' play, Pierrette is 35 years old. In this film, she's played by Fanny Ardant, who was past 50 at the time, so it's implied that Pierrette is now roughly the same age as Gaby (who's 45 in the play).
  • The Alcoholic: It's often remarked that Mamy tends to drink a tad too much, which she claims helps with the pain of her disability. When that turns out to be a sham, it's implied that it's to cope with the fact that she murdered her husband.
  • All-Loving Hero: Suzon. Exemplified in an early scene where Augustine makes snide suggestions that she might be forging her good grades, to which Suzon reacts with patience and understanding. She's also not disgusted by Chanel's lesbianism, unlike Gaby and Mamy. Not bad for a kid of the 1950's.
  • Anachronistic Soundtrack: Despite the 1950's setting, the characters sing songs released in the 60's at the earliest. The only exception may be "Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux", which started out as a poem published in 1944, and was set to music by George Brassens in 1953.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Augustine to Gaby, with her childish tantrums. Suzon and Catherine get along much better, but even they get into a fight when Catherine gets a bit too nosy about her elder sister's sex life.
  • Armoured Closet Gay: Technically bisexual, but Gaby reacts to Chanel being a lesbian with hostility, accusing her of being sick, even though it's clear from the moment Pierrette shows up that Gaby is attracted to women as well. She just represses it due to the time and society she lives in.
  • Asshole Victim: The story makes it clear that nobody in the house is a saint, but after the revelation that Marcel is the father of Suzon's child it's hard to hve any sympathy for him.
  • Beneath Suspicion: The culprit is Catherine, the youngest (still a child) among the women. Clearly the other women didn't expect her to be it, considering how little they questioned her. Although, she is the culprit, but not the murderer because the victim was never dead.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Gaby and Pierrette's kiss is accompanied by swelling romantic music and lasts for quite a while.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Six of the eight women are related in some way or another (the exceptions are Louise and Chanel, the maids), and the unspoken issues between them and their patriarch come out through the course of the film.
  • Big Secret: Every one of the eight has at least one secret she really would rather not get out, which only makes her more suspicious the longer she keeps it. All the secrets end up coming out since they'd also rather not be convicted of murder, exposing a slew of scandals, infidelities and secret loves. Catherine is the only one without a big secret, except for the fact that she is the one behind the whole mystery.
  • Black Sheep: Pierrette's libertine lifestyle caused Gaby to ban her from the house to protect the family's reputation. Pierrette can't forgive Marcel for going along with this (although he allowed secret visits), but she seems quite ready to forgive Gaby (though not without subjecting her to a good deal of snark).
  • Bookworm: Catherine is described as staying up all night reading mystery and adventure novels. Augustine makes a show of disapproving of this, but she's covertly into romance novels.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Catherine's resentment at her status as the youngest causes her to lash out at the others for treating her like a child. One scene has her express pride at how the older women are now afraid of her for what she might say. Also, the whole "murder" was a scheme to show the women and daddy how nobody loves him as much as she does.
  • Break the Cutie: Catherine may have bitten off more than she can chew.
  • Broken Pedestal: Louise is doggedly devoted to Gaby at first, but later expresses disappointment in Gaby's dwindling authority and lack of ability to keep things under her control.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Chanel suspects Pierrette and Marcel are a bit closer than siblings should be. Pierrette vaguely admits they may have done something when they were younger.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Gaby verbally tears into Mamy for faking her disability so she could live comfortably off Gaby's wealth.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Downplayed; Gaby, Pierrette, Louise and Chanel, who are half the cast, turn out to be some form of LGBT.
  • Cat Fight: When Gaby and Pierrette find out they've been having an affair with the same man at the same time, they exchange some flaccid blows over it, up until cheesy romantic music starts playing and they kiss on the floor.
  • Chromosome Casting: As the title implies, it's all about eight women. There is one male actor in the film (who plays Marcel), but they make it a point not to show his face or give him lines and he only appears onscreen very sparsely and briefly.
  • Circling Monologue: Pierrette is rather fond of walking circles around Gaby while speaking to her, which could be taken as a kind of predatory flirtation in light of later events.
  • Closed Circle: With cut phone lines, a broken car, locked gates and freezing weather, the characters are forced to endure each other at the same time as they try to figure out who's the culprit.
  • Color-Coded Characters: Usually related to their flowers. Pink for Suzon, green for Catherine, violet for Mamy, leopard patterns and dark blue-green for Gaby, brown for Augustine, red for Pierrette, black and white for Louise, and yellow for Chanel.
  • Conviction by Contradiction: As a fan of mystery novels, Catherine is adamant the culprit can be caught by noticing inconsistencies and vagueness in her declarations. The only problem, she says, is that every single one of the other culprits is hiding a chock full of secrets too! And it turns out that Catherine herself is the culprit, which makes sense since she was the only one who didn't have a big personal secret to hide besides her "crime."
  • Cool Aunt: Pierrette defends Suzon when she reveals she's pregnant and her own mother calls her a whore for it. She contrasts Augustine, who's annoyingly critical of her nieces.
  • Could Say It, But...:
    • During Suzon's questioning, Louise drops the information that Chanel plays cards, fakes feeling guilty about revealing it, and after claiming she's not a snitch, easily reveals who Chanel sees at night with no more pressure than Catherine saying they won't tell anyone.
    • Augustine pseudo-reluctantly reveals that Gaby was always asking Marcel for money after a few seconds of claiming she'll never speak ill of her sister.
  • Curtain Call: The film ends with a shot of all the women standing side by side, holding hands and facing the camera as if acknowledging an audience.
  • Curtain Camouflage: Catherine is a master of this, as she saw all the other women's interactions with Marcel the night before from behind a curtain in his study for several hours without getting found out.
  • Cut Phone Lines: Suzon tries calling the police after they find Marcel dead, but Augustine finds that the line is cut, which is another contributing element to their isolation in the house.
  • Daddy's Girl: Catherine is very attached to her father Marcel, and he considers her the only one he can rely on. This is what leads Catherine to hatch a scheme to expose the other seven women for what they are.
  • A Deadly Affair: When Pierrette tells Gaby she knows she's been having an affair, Gaby wonders if she thinks she's the murderer because of it. Pierrette quips that if every cheating woman did that, there would be no more men, and she doesn't think Gaby is the murderer at all.
  • Downer Ending: Catherine reveals that Marcel faked his death with her help. Then she runs to his bedroom to see him committing suicide, aghast at the true nature of the women in his life. Not that he's a sympathetic character, though...
  • Driven to Suicide: Turns out Marcel was alive all along. But he kills himself at the end out of despair at everything that's been revealed.
  • Dumb Struck: Chanel is rendered mute for a while out of shock at hearing a gunshot. The culprit did this because she had caught on to what was going on too early and so needed to be silenced.
  • Ensemble Cast: The film is one big excuse for having eight famous French actresses from multiple generations of cinema play off each other. There is no real protagonist among the characters.
  • Everybody Did It: From a certain point of view, the end of the movie becomes this, in the sense that each woman of the cast made Marcel more and more depressed, culminating in his suicide when his younger daughter becomes just as despicable as the rest of them. That's however, if you view his beliefs as accurate...
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: All the women were present in the house at some point during the previous night, and the fact that the guard dogs didn't bark rules out the possibility that a home-invading stranger did it. Coupled with the fact that the women all have plausible motives for wanting Marcel dead, they all suspect and accuse each other.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The story takes place in just one day.
  • The Faceless: Marcel. The few times he appears throughout the film, it's done in such a way that his face can't be seen.
  • Faking the Dead: Marcel fakes his murder with Catherine's help as a ploy to get the women to reveal their deepest secrets.
  • Flower Motifs: The opening credits (and promotional materials) present the eight actresses with a certain flower which symbolizes their characters. They also tend to wear the flowers' colors.
    • The violet for Mamy. Violets are associated with mourning and death, fitting the character's advanced age and the reveal that she killed her husband (in fact, in the end she's the only character who's confirmed to have ever killed someone).
    • The tiger orchid for Gaby. Orchids are associated with beauty, which Gaby is not lacking. That it's a tiger orchid brings to mind felines; Gaby is most of the time aloof, but there is a passionate side lurking beneath, so she could be said to have a feline temperament (this is reinforced by her leopard pattern coat). Orchids are also associated with status and elegance, fitting Gaby as the refined, wealthy lady of the house.
    • The achiote and its fruit annatto for Augustine. The fruit inside the prickly seed pods reflects Augustine's own prickly personality overshadowing her love for her family, as well as repression.
    • The red rose for Pierrette. Red roses are symbols of romantic, passionate love, which Pierrette has made it her profession to distribute without any shame (and she even enjoys it). Plus, her attraction to Gaby, which she is not afraid of expressing.
    • The sunflower for Chanel. Chanel has a warm personality like the sun the flower is associated with. On the negative side of things, the sunflower also means unhappy love; Chanel has to cope with Pierrette's rejection of her feelings.
    • The white orchid for Louise. Again the connotations of beauty shared with Gaby, the white orchid also symbolizes mystery and secrecy, as Louise is having an affair with Marcel without Gaby knowing, while also nurturing a crush on her mistress.
    • The pink rose for Suzon. This one stands for a more gentle, innocent love than Pierrette's red rose. Suzon is probably the nicest of the eight and has the most understanding attitude towards the many secrets that come out.
    • The daisy for Catherine. It represents youth and innocence; Catherine is the youngest and most childlike of the eight, and her love for Marcel verges on blind naivety.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling:
    • Gaby is icily down-to-earth and rational and tries to take care of her family even if she can't stand them, while Augustine is rather childish, overly dramatic and makes a burden of herself.
    • Catherine takes joy in riling up the other women into exposing their true feelings, while Suzon tries to go about getting the truth from them in a calmer, more pacifying manner.
  • French Maid: Louise is the young and comely maid of the household. She behaves cheekily to everyone around her, is a bit brazen regarding sex, and turns out to be sexually involved with her employer and wants to be involved with Gaby as well. Although it's interesting that her maid outfit is much more modest than the standard.
  • Generation Xerox: Gaby became pregnant with Suzon out of wedlock. Suzon repeats this, which leads to her calling Gaby out for judging her for it when she went through the same thing.
  • Genre Savvy: Catherine, being a character in a work of mystery fiction herself, is fond of comparing the situations that arise to the cliches of the mystery novels she so enjoys reading. As it turns out, it was her who orchestrated the entire mystery.
  • The Ghost: Jacques Farnoux is never seen but is a character of some import as he's Marcel's business associate who drove him to bankruptcy and therefore contributed to his depression. He's also having affairs with Gaby and Pierrette and was planning to run off with the former to Mexico.
  • Give the Baby a Father: Gaby became pregnant with Suzon out of wedlock. When the real father died, she had to marry Marcel to preserve her honor and save herself and the yet-to-be-born Suzon. Since it was the first half of the 20th century and these are upper-class characters, it was a necessity.
  • Grand Staircase Entrance: Augustine makes her post-makeover entrance by glamorously coming down the stairs.
  • Gratuitous English: When Catherine is unveiling the whole plot, at one point she randomly says "That is the question" in English.
  • Half-Sibling Angst: Catherine is distressed and doesn't want to believe it when her older sister Suzon tells her they have different fathers.
  • Harmful to Minors: Catherine, who's only 16, is the only one to witness her father blow his own brains out with her own eyes. A real dick move on his part, too, since he waited for her to be right in front of him before doing it. Catherine is obviously despondent and needs to be comforted by Mamy.
  • The Heart: Suzon, who keeps some semblance of peace among the women by stopping them from delving too deeply into their quarrels with each other and keeping them focused on the investigation. If she weren't around there would probably be a lot more cat-fighting.
  • He Knows Too Much: Chanel figures out the truth behind the murder about halfway through. However she gets shocked into silence by a mysterious gunshot before she can say anything (but she doesn't die; she's just conveniently out of commission until the end).
  • Heroic Bastard: Suzon was born out of wedlock and from a different man, yet she's the sweetest and most morally upright of the eight.
  • Homage Shot: The shot of the doe at the beginning of the movie is an homage to All That Heaven Allows.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Pierrette is one of the more pleasant characters, as shown by her investment in getting Gaby and Suzon to reconcile after the reveal of the latter's pregnancy, even though it's not Pierrette's concern.
  • "I Am" Song: "Pile ou Face" functions as this for Louise, as the song is used to describe how she lives every aspect of her life as carelessly as someone who makes decisions through a coin toss ("pile ou face" means heads or tails).
  • Implausible Deniability: When Suzon, Catherine, Augustine and Louise catch Gaby and Pierrette making out on the floor, Gaby tries to claim they were "only talking." Since there are more pressing things to worry about, the matter is quickly dropped.
  • Inheritance Murder: It's discussed that the fact that Gaby inherits Marcel's fortune in case of his death makes her plausible as the murderer.
  • In the Back: Marcel is found with a knife on his back, which leads the women to rule out that he killed himself.
  • In Vino Veritas: Mamy's alcoholism eventually leads to her spilling her most closely guarded secret - that she killed her husband.
  • "I Want" Song:
    • Pierrette's song ("A Quoi Sert de Vivre Libre") is about wanting to love and be loved (by Gaby, it's implied) and how she doesn't think it's worth leading a liberated lifestyle without it.
    • Gaby's song ("Toi Jamais") is about how her husband took her for granted and she'd like to be showered with attention sometimes (and that's why she cheats on him).
  • Jukebox Musical: The songs consist of old French pop hits with thematically appropriate lyrics.
  • Lady in Red: Pierrette spends the film wearing a bright red dress, and she takes no shame in the fact that she's a whore by profession, besides spending a good deal of her time attempting to seduce Gaby. Even her song is about how she's sexually liberated.
  • The Leader: As Suzon and Catherine's mother, Louise and Chanel's boss, Mamy and Augustine's gracious host and Pierrette's not-so-gracious host, Gaby serves as something of a leader for the women and she does try to keep the situation under control, but as a disappointed Louise remarks, she's not very good at asserting her authority in her own house.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Part of Augustine's makeover, which makes her more relaxed as a person, is to let her hair down instead of having it all pinned up like it was for most of the film.
  • The Lost Lenore:
    • Suzon's real, dead father is a sore spot for Gaby; she admits to Suzon she thinks of him every day.
    • Implied with the wistful way Louise talks about her previous employer, who she claims to have loved, due to being "portrayed" by a picture of Romy Schneider, who'd been dead for nearly two decades then.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Gaby and Marcel are married. Marcel's sister Pierrette and Gaby are both having affairs with the same man, who is Marcel's business partner, and later Pierrette shows interest in Gaby and they kiss. Marcel is having an affair with the maid Louise, who is also interested in Gaby. Gaby's sister Augustine is interested in Marcel. Gaby's daughter Suzon turns out to have been another man's daughter, and also she is pregnant with Marcel's child. The housekeeper Chanel is in love with Pierrette.
  • Love Letter Lunacy: Augustine wrote a love letter to Marcel, which she misplaced in a book that she returned to the library, which gets discovered by Pierrette, who reads the letter out loud for the benefit of the other women, exposing Augustine's interest in her sister's husband.
  • Maiden Aunt: Augustine is a spinster and certainly puts on airs of being conservative and prudish (though she actually loves romance novels), being judgemental towards her nieces.
  • The Mistress: Louise had been sleeping with Marcel for five years prior, and got hired as a maid for easier access.
  • Musical World Hypotheses: Alternate Universe, due to Augustine complaining about the racket after the first number finishes.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Suzon wanted to keep her pregnancy secret and only told Marcel, presumably because he's the father. But the situation forces her to admit the truth to the other women.
  • No Romantic Resolution: Any resolution to the Louise/Gaby/Pierrette/Chanel love quadrangle is left up in the air after the ending. How Gaby and Pierrette intend to deal with their lover Jacques Farnoux is also a mystery.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Gaby is surprised that Mamy is not actually confined to her wheelchair. She was faking it so Gaby would take pity on her and let her live with her.
  • Old Retainer: Chanel has been working at the household long enough that the family, especially Suzon who she had a hand in raising, see her as part of it.
  • Orgasmic Combat
  • Parental Incest: Suzon had sexual relations with Marcel, which left her pregnant. Although it had been revealed before that he is "only" her step-father.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Pierrette and Catherine sit back and eat sandwiches while watching Gaby and Louise go at each other's throats (verbally, not physically) over the latter's intimacy with the former's husband.
  • Pink Means Feminine: The opening and ending credits use pink text. Suzon also wears pink and is markedly more feminine than her sister Catherine.
  • Pretty in Mink:
    • Gaby wears a fur-trimmed coat and then a mink stole, which serve as symbols of her status as the wealthy mistress of the household; the mink is continuously stroked by Pierrette in her attempts to seduce Gaby.
    • Augustine also wears a mink stole to heighten her glamorous appearance when she breaks out of her spinster getup.
  • Race Lift: Chanel was played by white actresses prior to this film. Here she's played by Firmine Richard, who's black.
  • Rape as Drama: Suzon reveals to Catherine that her pregnancy is Marcel's doing. She doesn't elaborate more than that, but the uncharacteristic venom in her delivery all but states it was anything but consensual. That, and the fact that while she believed Marcel was her father, he knew she wasn't really his child, a fact he may have exploited to clear his conscience.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Pierrette and Louise give different accounts of the former's meeting with Marcel, with Louise claiming Pierrette threatened to kill him, while Pierrette claims she said she'd kill herself. Then later she tells Gaby she did threaten to kill him, but was bluffing. All three claims come with a different "flashback" to the meeting to illustrate the point.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Jovial, free-spirited Pierrette and chilly, bourgeois Gaby. And they respectively wear red and blue.
  • Retraux: The look of the film evokes the look of films made in the 1950s, and the songs are all performed in a 1950s style, despite some of them being from as late as the 1980s.
  • Second-Face Smoke: Pierrette defiantly blows cigarette smoke in Suzon's face when the latter is questioning her.
  • Security Cling: Suzon and Louise cling to each other while Catherine reveals the startling truth behind the mystery.
  • Seemingly-Wholesome '50s Girl: Suzon comes across as the very picture of propriety at first glance. And then she drops the bomb that she's pregnant (while *gasp* not being married!). Pregnant by her step-father, at that.
  • Servile Snarker: Louise the maid becomes more and more insolent to the other women, who are either her bosses or seniors.
  • Shaking Her Hair Loose: Louise's hair is pulled back into a bun for most of the film. Late into it she shakes it loose as a way of showing Gaby that she is through with being subservient to her.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Augustine suddenly decides to put on an old dress of her sister's and have a makeover. When she presents herself, everyone present is surprised at the transformation and compliments her for it.
  • Sibling Triangle: A double example. Gaby and Marcel are married, while Marcel's sister Pierrette is interested in Gaby, and Gaby's sister Augustine is interested in Marcel.
  • Sixth Ranger: Pierrette is the last of the eight women to show up and she does so much later than the others; they're introduced within the first ten minutes, while Pierrette doesn't show up until the thirty-minute mark. She's also the only one introduced after the murder has been discovered to have occurred. This is because she's not welcome in the house so she technically shouldn't be there at all. She wastes no time in becoming The Lancer to Gaby, though.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Gaby and Pierrette, who spend the film snarking at each other until they have a serious argument where they come to physical blows, only to end in them kissing.
  • Sleeping Single: Gaby and Marcel sleep in separate rooms despite being married, as Augustine snidely remarks. Gaby excuses it as Marcel having asked her because he's swamped in work and comes home late.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Louise has been having a sexual relationship with Marcel for five years, which has continued under Gaby's nose after she was hired as a maid at the house. Louise later reveals she wants the same kind of relationship with Gaby and that was the reason she even took the job, and seems to take masochistic pleasure from Gaby ordering her around.
  • Slimeball: Marcel, preying on Suzon while she believed he was her father. Repulsive man.
  • Smug Smiler: Pierrette's default expression, showing how she's completely confident in herself and shrugs off everyone's opinions about her "immoral" lifestyle. She even keeps it on while the big twist is being revealed and the other women look astounded, though it does fall off sometimes, like when Gaby tells her particularly nasty things or when she overhears Gaby telling Suzon about her real father.
  • Snowed-In: Played with; it certainly complicates the whole situation, but none of the characters are actually locked in until the culprit secretly chains the gates of the estate and ruins the car's engine. The snow is just the added bonus.
  • Spiteful Spit: Augustine thinks Gaby has stolen her shares and physically attacks her for it. The others break them up, so Augustine resorts to spitting on Gaby instead.
  • Subordinate Excuse: Even in light of the murder, Louise wants to keep being Gaby's maid because she wants her. At least at first.
  • Suicide by Cop: In the emotional fight that ensues after Mamy confesses to killing her husband in the past, she begs Augustine to kill her, and Augustine is furious enough that she might have, had Gaby not intervened.
  • Summation Gathering: At the end all the women are gathered to hear Catherine explain the truth of the supposed crime to them.
  • Tap on the Head: Gaby knocks out Mamy by smashing a bottle on her head to stop her and Augustine's fight. Mamy gets wheeled into the cupboard to sleep and wakes up totally fine near the end.
  • Tell Me About My Father: Suzon urges Gaby to tell her about her real father, who she'd never heard of before as she had no idea she was the daughter of another man.
  • That Was Not a Dream: Mamy briefly thinks the murder and everything since was just a dream after she wakes up from being knocked out.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: Mamy reveals that she killed her husband because she didn't love him and couldn't stand the idea of spending her life with someone she didn't love. Augustine is terribly shaken by this revelation as she never got over her father's death.
  • Twisted Christmas: The family should be having a wholesome gathering for the Christmas festivities, but instead they have to figure out whodunnit after finding their patriarch murdered.
  • Unrelated in the Adaptation: Because in the play the plot point about Gaby's lost love didn't exist, Marcel really was Suzon's father in that version of the story. Not so here, which also affects her degree of kinship with Catherine (here they're half-sisters) and Pierrette (here she's her step-aunt).
  • Vehicular Sabotage: The culprit ruins the car's engine so none of the characters can leave. Louise none-too-subtly suggests Gaby did it, which makes sense because as far as anyone knows she was the last one who was anywhere near the car before the sabotage was discovered.
  • The Voiceless: In addition to barely getting a look at him, Marcel also gets no lines.
  • You Can Leave Your Hat On: Pierrette's dance during her musical number is a mild striptease; she doesn't take off more than her jackets and gloves, but it's still done in a very seductive manner and she throws some of her items at the other women.


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