Eight and a Half Women

Eight and a Half Women


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

For all their artistry and daring, Peter Greenaway's movies are cold. His latest is also boring.

At one point, a character asks, "How many film directors make films to satisfy their sexual fantasies?" For the man who created The Pillow Book, The Baby Of Macon and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover the answer is obvious.

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This time, he has a naked nun (Toni Collette), a father (John Standing) sharing a bed with his grown-up son (Matthew Delamere), an equestrian (Amanda Plummer) galloping bareback in the buff and an international call girl (Polly Walker) applying essential oils to an essential area of an old man's anatomy. Full frontal male nudity is flaunted, as are pert breasts in soft light. The result has the erotic thrill of a museum exhibit.

Greenaway's dialogue can be matter-of-fact ("You've never slept with a corpse, I imagine"), or informative ("Men love women. Women love childen. Children love hamsters"), but his narrative skills have atrophied. Whatever is going on here, besides undressing and waiting for an earthquake, can only be guessed at. A German banker, mourning the death of his wife, is encouraged to fill his mansion with eight-and-a-half women - the half is legless, literally - and a pig. Actually, there are more if you count the servants.

Standing has spent his entire career playing pillars of the establishment. The word "pompous" applies to his theatrical persona. Finding him between the sheets with a decidedly camp Delamere is a culture shock. As for the women - excellent actresses all - they would be excused for thinking that their talents have been exploited for the purpose of arthouse titillation.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Director: Peter Greenaway

Writer: Peter Greenaway

Starring: John Standing, Matthew Delamere, Polly Walker, Toni Collette, Vivian Wu, Barbara Sarifian

Year: 1999

Runtime: 121 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK / Netherlands / Luxembourg / Germany


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