81/2 Women

on August 01, 2008 by Ed Scheid
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"81/2 Women" is writer/director Peter Greenaway's examination of male fantasies taken to the extreme. Philip Emmenthal (John Standing, "Mr. Dalloway") is a wealthy Geneva businessman who takes control of some Japanese gambling houses. His son Storey (Matthew Delamere) manages them and becomes fascinated by Japanese earthquakes. Philip, meanwhile, is devastated when his wife dies. The bizarre behavior starts when father and son compare naked bodies and then share a pair of pajamas, sleep in the same bed and become inspired to turn their Geneva home into an elaborate brothel.
Greenaway has called his film a "modest homage to [Federico] Fellini" (who directed and scripted the surreal "8/12"), but all of the obvious references only emphasize how far superior Fellini's classic is to this disappointing effort. Besides the Fellini influence, the title refers to the women living in the private harem-the 1/2 being one woman who has no legs. The women include a Japanese gambling addict (Shizuka Inoh) in debt to the Emmenthals, a businesswoman (Vivian Wu of Greenaway's "Pillow Book"), a nun ("Sixth Sense's" Toni Collette), a horsewoman (Amanda Plummer, "Pulp Fiction") and a woman who's continually pregnant (Natacha Amal). There is even the ultimate cliché-a whore with a heart of gold (Polly Walker, "Restoration"). The only impressive thing about this film is that Greenaway could get actresses with significant credits like Plummer, Collette and Walker to play such trite versions of male sexual fantasies.
Periodically, the film incites some minimal interest through Greenaway's staging of some striking images along with his usual painterly use of light and color. Starring John Standing, Matthew Delamere, Vivian Wu, Toni Collette, Amanda Plummer and Polly Walker. Directed and written by Peter Greenaway. Produced by Kees Kasander. A Lions Gate release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 121 min.
Tags: Matthew Delamere, Vivian Wu, Toni Collette, Amanda Plummer, Polly Walker, Peter Greenaway, Kees Kasander, A Lions Gate release, Drama, fantasies, sexual, earthquakes, bizarre, John Standing
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