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8 Women

The title is a reference to Fellini's "8 1/2," but any cinematic

comparisons should probably stop there.

Story

There's a melancholy, rich old man named Philip (John Standing), who's

just lost his wife. Standing in front of a mirror, naked, he complains

to his son Storey (Mathew Delamere, also naked) that he's getting old.

They proceed to stare at their anatomy, console themselves by jumping

into bed together, watch the Fellini flick and decide to create their

own bordello of women on their estate. There's some deeper theme here

about women having power, but it's difficult to find under all the

nudity.

Acting

There are willing women everywhere, and yet Standing repeatedly -- and

annoyingly -- grumbles his unhappiness and swoons over the young,

sensual Palmira (Polly Walker), the only one who smirks her way into the

affections of both men. The actresses' performances range from amusing

(Vivian Wu, as a businesswoman) to confusing (Shizuka Inoh, as a

materialistic gambling addict) to plain weird (Amanda Plummer, who is

just <I>way</I> too attached to her horse and a fat pig. Don't ask.)

Direction

Anyone familiar with Peter Greenaway knows about his penchant for flesh

("The Pillow Book," "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover") and

his method of artistry over direction. Trained as a painter, Greenaway

loves to shock audiences with unabashed nudity, particularly of

characters that aren't curvy, thin or young. But it can be equally

off-putting to moviegoers, who really might not want to see "natural

images" blown up onscreen. (And by the way, for the amount of skin,

there's very little sex in the film.)

Bottom Line

With earthquakes, nuns and that elusive "half-woman" thrown into the

mix, it's clear: "8 1/2 Women" is disturbing fare that will repel more

than fascinate.