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  • srepka25 September 2002
    Actually, Greenaway has nearly always been laughing. It's just that many people fail to notice that. "8 1/2 Women", however, is different in that even the people who hate it (of which there will be plenty; it's Greenaway) will have no doubts that it is a comedy, and Greenaway's lightest-toned film yet.

    It is a playful tribute to Fellini and Godard, and it features - prominently - understanding, affection and warmth, none of which are emotions one would have easily associated with Greenaway's previous work. (In an after-screening interview, he commented that age makes one want to look more at the better side of things.) Because this is still very much a Peter Greenaway film, the ways in which emotions such as filial love are going to be explored are going to be very quirky indeed; but to interpret the film's "taboo" scene as intended to shock is a disservice to the film, the director's intentions (and his ability to *truly* shock when he wants to - check "The Baby of Macon") and your own enjoyment.

    "8 1/2 Women" is full of odd little moments (and one SPECTACULARLY odd image which I won't spoil much, except to mention that it involves a pig, a Japanese Noh performer and a stunning Swiss villa) and offbeat humour; and it is about male bonding and male delusions about women. I can see how many people have taken the facile route of viewing it as misogynistic; these people have obviously not seen the same film as I have, which is all about control from behind the scenes, strategy, and the presentation of male supremacy for what it is - a fallacy.

    "8 1/2 Women" was badly received at Cannes, got a tremendous backlash against it and died a death commercially. All of which is very unfair. If you like eccentric humour, give this film a chance. It's a little Wonderland of sorts and, in its own peculiar way, far more heartwarming than the average plastic Hollywood tear-jerker.
  • I've heard and read much criticism about Greenaway's homage to Fellini, "8 1/2 Women", and have found it both predictable and amusing. Every Greenaway film evokes raw, often disturbing emotions in the viewer-- this is nothing new, yet is treated like a revelation with every new release. And some fans and critics of Greenaway seem to be keeping a running score of his visual/emotional offenses, even tending to get irate when he fails to shock or disturb on the level of his other films. But again, this is nothing new.

    So I'm humored at the reaction to "8 1/2 Women", for it is as visually stunning/arousing/disturbing as many of its predecessors while it is actually quite tame by Greenaway's standards (for one, the cannibalism/mutilation theme is missing). Yet we have those who are disappointed at the lack of shock or those who are too easily shocked, and Greenaway has long proven that you can't make everyone happy in filmmaking and, honestly, he really doesn't care what you think. You only have to watch.

    He is really very similar to Fellini in this way as he is in so many others. I'm no great fan of Fellini's, not as much as I am of his successors anyway, but the parallels are apparent. Fellini worked in absurdities the way Greenaway works in the dire or some artists work in oils. He made the most ridiculous scenarios seem beautiful, artful... even sexy. He imprinted upon film as art and future filmmakers that strange and disjointed often equals desirable, and Greenaway clearly took this to heart. But like Fellini, Greenaway films come with an automatic caveat: You will see things that we are taught to abhor and despise in our society, you will have to think about things from which humans naturally shrink away and you will bear witness to the possibility that great beauty can be found in the mire if you can manage to look long enough. Greenaway's "awfulness" and attempt to disgust you is his medium and his brilliance (and his great joke on you), and if this doesn't sit well with you then you shouldn't watch Greenaway. It's as simple as that.

    So, that being said - "8 1/2 Women". Not Greenaway's best, but certainly not his worst. Again we get to share in his great love of the human form in all its beauty and imperfection-- both of body and of character. But this is his most lighthearted attempt and is thoroughly enjoyable for that alone. The relationship between the widower Philip Emmenthal and his earthshakingly prattish son Storey is genuinely touching, as are their relationships with the various women they bring into their lives to replace their lost wife/lover/mother. Equally moving is the fact that these women become much more than mere objects or possessions in their house, but rather individual character studies on the strength of femininity and the power that women have over men. While Fellini's "8 1/2" may have been semi-autobiographical, here Greenaway seems to have tapped into the fantasies and realities of the relationships between men and women everywhere, focusing on the fact that neither are as simple as they seem. And that while mere sex will inevitably falter in the face of deeper love, such meaningful relationships are elusive and fleeting. He doesn't tap very far through, which is this film's only failing; the relationships and characters, some of whom are downright silly, are often taken at surface value and the themes, especially regarding sexual dynamics, are nothing new to cinema.

    Nevertheless, "8 1/2 Women" is a lovely, surprisingly sincere and often humorous account of men, women, family, self-identity and the rewards of living out your fantasies along with their tempering costs. Highly recommended for anyone who has been scared away by Greenaway's other films or for anyone else who truly enjoys the beauty found in strong women and faltering men.
  • Despite being hissed at Cannes this film is still well worth seeing. I purchased the DVD and the more I watch it the better I like it. For a start, as with all Greenaway's work since The Falls, the photography is ravishing. I don't think anyone makes films which look better.

    What few have picked up on is that (as well as an attempt to pick up Fellini's 8 1/2-ball and run with it), this is almost a remake of "A Zed and Two Noughts". Both films study bizarre responses to bereavement. both films play on doubling, in this case a father and son rather than two brothers. Both films touch on bestiality (with animals called Hortense!), gynecology, sex with amputees, a menagerie (in this case of women rather than animals), prostitution, uses of light, storytelling, and the colours black and white.

    Where that film referenced painting, this references performance in many guises - cinema, kabuki, cross-dressing, opera, television, prostitution, as well as painting.

    Contrary to at least one other user comment, there is no sexual intercourse shown in the film, although there is a quantity of nudity. It's very odd, if perhaps unsurprising, that this film has been sold as a sexy movie. SexIST? Well, confusing an ironic depiction of men's sexual fantasies with a reduction of women to the level of fantasy is 'politically correct' laziness at best. And as with most of Greenaway's films, the women are the winners in the end.

    One reason this is harder work than the earlier film is the lack of Michael Nyman's ravishing music. I'm not sure why Greenaway stopped working with Nyman; possibly he felt he was stuck in a rut - perhaps he was nettled by charges that any old footage looked like Greenaway if you played Nyman's music behind it. Either way, he's yet to arrive at a truly satisfactory alternative. Here we have "Slow Boat to China" sung a capella by the two leads, rather after the manner of Morecambe and Wise. It's quite funny, but it's not the marriage of sound and image of earlier films.

    The extent to which Philip Emmenthal represents Greenaway himself is perhaps worth considering. A character makes reference to Fellini having Mastroianni make love to all the women Fellini couldn't, and asks whether all directors make films to fulfil their own sexual fantasies. Emmenthal is notably the same age as Greenaway.

    He may not be sweeping the art-house scene before him these days (in fact there's not much of an art-house scene left these days), but in the end, even below-par Greenaway is better than 99% of directors can even aspire to.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a great Greenaway film. And like most Greenaway films, it is stuck in its own little universe. If you step into that universe and not like it, you will most likely walk out, never to return. But for us that love Greenaway's universe, we will stay and make ourselves a pot of the strangest tea and drink it, greedily.

    The plot revolves around an older man, who had just lost his wife of many years, and his son. They watch Fellini and decide to capture some woman to make a harem of their desires. Some women come there to satisfy a debt, another comes of her own free will, as long as they pay her $75,000 a year. Each woman has an interesting back story. One is addicted to gambling, one loves her horse, one loves to have babies, one is a nun, one is a martyring maid, one is in a wheelchair. Each of these woman could be a character from a Fellini film.

    The movie is filled with a lot of wit and irony, once the women come to the house. The women start making demands and by the end, the movie is dropped into a metaphoric and Shakespearian tragic end. I won't give any more details than that.

    The lighting, mood and story of this movie is completely original. Some viewers might not like the frankness of the dialog and/or the nudity of both sexes, but I feel it ranks right up there with Greenway's other films, like Tulse Luper Suitcases, The Falls, Zoo, Drowning by Numbers, etc. I heard it was a sexist movie, but I have seen more sexism in slapstick comedies and films like In The Company of Men. I usually look for a good story and interesting characters, be they flawed or not, and 8 !/2 Women delivers both. I wasn't bored for a second watching this.

    The director makes his own little world. It's an odd world and has different moral standards, but that is part of its charm viewers tend to miss.
  • A master visual allegorist reaches farther and fails. But not for the reasons others claim here. Greenaway has never centered his films in the narrative -- we'd always be frustrated to look for satisfaction there. (`Drowning' which among his works most delivers a story does so incidentally.) And this is a film about women, not sex, which will frustrate others.

    Here is his most character-driven film. At last, he works on closeups and some character definition. The primary ordering of the film is by basic archetypes of women, particularly archetypes drawn by men. This is supposed to be his most painterly film: the representative women are to be presented in scenes that reference famous paintings. Greenaway has stated that painting cuts to the basic drivers in cultural revolution, and the representations of women therein are tokens for everything conceived. Women thus are both humans and basic tokens in the redefinition of life.

    Such a rich conception is thoroughly Greenawayan and might have formed the skeleton for another masterpiece. Along the way, we have by now familiar devices. Numbers: random as in pachinko rather than ordered. Contrasts between Eastern (here just Japanese) and Western management of concept and image. Some slight use of layered images, here in the self-reference of displaying the screenplay.

    My complaints are two. I consider them fatal, but still celebrate Greenaway.

    The notion of archetype depends on clarity, a natural orthogonality and completeness of classes. Here we have the nun, whore, Chinadoll, servant, cripple, childbearer, fetishist, butch, and spontaneous addict. Time is invested in defining these. A few are singled out to be something more than props for lush compositions: the geisha chinadoll, the lesbian accountant, the gambler and the opportunistic, openly enthusiastic whore. But in bringing them to life, they escape their categories: two of these are male impersonators, another two financial manipulators, another two vamps. Three are Japanese. Usually, Greenaway's combination of painting (erudite structure and framing of scenes) and film (narrative, development) reinforce one another. Here, they dissonate.

    The second problem may be more fundamental. You really have to know your stuff to enjoy these films. My knowledge of The Tempest is rather deep, so I saw how rich was `Prospero's Books.' I read up on restoration comedy for `Draughtsman,' and discovered art in the viewing that I presume no one else in the theater saw. This film is supposed to reference the feminine archetype not as defined by popular culture, but by the history of painting. My knowledge of the art is poor, so I cannot attest to how deep the annotations are here. (Little use is made here of the layered image and narrative comment. Wonder why, since it would have been so natural.

    But I do know Gauguin, who also was a visual allegorist, who also worked with feminine archetypes and also the fascination with Asian differences. His monumental canvas `Where are We Going?' does just what this film purports.

    I wonder if there is little there in this film.
  • I went to see it because I am fascinated with Japanese culture. Furthermore, I admire mr. Greenaway for the typical British way in which he exposes hypocrisy, yet in a very tasteful manner, and combines this with baroque visuals. I was warned however that it had nothing resembling a coherent story. It might even be boring.

    Call me a twisted European, but I actually like "8.5 women", more than "Eyes wide shut"! The characters are indeed to unnatural to empathize with, and the movie will certainly stimulate your mind more than it will entertain you.....or arouse you sexually. The characters find themselves in a loosely connected stream of little scenes. Rather than making normal conversation, everyone seems to say what they think in this stream of sub-consciousness.

    Mr. Greenaway plays with all aspects of sex and connects these, often in a disturbing manner, with death, religion, procreation and age and gender roles. He jumps across the cultures and taboos of this globe. Of course you might be offended by the candid way in which these ideas are treated. However, explicit scenes aren't shown. It doesn't need this effect to create a strange but compelling movie about our confused sexual morals on the threshold of a new millennium.
  • Frederico Fellini's "8 1/2" is a movie this one is theoretically inspired by. There are consistent references to it in this film, some subtle, and some glaringly obvious. One should take this into account so that it will not hamper one's voluntary suspension of disbelief, though this movie definitely stands on its own if the viewer has never seen "8 1/2".

    Voluntary is, perhaps, an inappropriate word. This movie takes disbelief, which should certainly be present, and suspends it for you, in a most amusing way. The film may well attempt to say something deep about human nature, and the interaction between a fickle heart which has lots of love to give and a bored brain with so many thoughts - but it doesn't say it so loud that you can't just sit back and enjoy the picture. Some scenes are funny to all; some scenes may cause you to be the only hysterical person in the theater. In any case, it's well worth the ticket or rental cost. Some male nudity is present, though no more than the average British movie containing male nudity. No sex scenes are overly graphic, though one should definitely have an open mind going into the movie in order to enjoy it. If you didn't feel a significant need to leave the theater during "Gouttes d'eau sur pierres brûlantes," which I was last week, you should be able to thoroughly enjoy this film.

    (Lighting designers watch for the Kabuki scene; it won awards in Europe and definitely looks very cool.)
  • ultraluv22 June 2000
    I went in expecting the worst and left completely turned around. 8 1/2 Women doesn't hold a candle to The Pillow Book, The Cook the Thief..., or his earlier Drowning By Numbers, but I had fun! It was almost like Peter Greenaway does Woody Allen (wanna talk about film makers who purge their sexual fantasies on screen!) With the exception of a couple of scenes, the visual style of this film is stark and simple (much like Drowning...) and relied heavily on smart dialogue, which at times got a bit over the top, intellectually speaking, but kept the film going. I never got bored with it, I never got too disgusted, and even if I can't recommend it to most of the people I know, I still feel it's a strong feature.

    Now, even though this is Greenaway Lite, it still isn't for people who didn't like any of his earlier films. But even if you only liked The Cook The Thief, you should give this one a chance. Forget that you have hang ups about sex and sit back and watch the perversion unfold! Pure, sick fun!
  • Fans of Peter Greenaway will not be disappointed. This film seems to be following an on-going trend of a creating more subtle approach to subjects of sexualities. If Greenaway is maturing, it's by leaving even more unsaid about the various subjects he chooses for study. This may result in works which are even more inaccessible than previous works like "The Cook..." and "Prospero's Books". Patience is the key with Greenaway, and this film certainly demands it.
  • cathalcom-119 October 2006
    9 because, 10 years later, i found myself explaining the plot of this movie to a friend of mine. not only could i remember the whole movie, even lines out of it, but i suddenly realized what it was all about! now, maybe i was just naive the first time i saw it and should have realized straight away. but that's not the point. the point is that any movie that, ten years after watching it, you can suddenly think 'that's what he was talking about', has staying power, to say the least.

    it's a still movie, so to speak, there's no doubt about it. but that doesn't necessarily make it boring - and given the above observation i don't think there can be any suspicion that it's not captivating.
  • The 1st third of the film is densely textured with text and image overlays (as in his last few films). The effect reminds me of nothing more than the collages of Tom Wesselman and to some extent the paintings of Sigmar Polke. The interactions of the many layers is quite masterful & I especially like the way that everything, including actors dialogue and plot are treated equally as texture.

    Each section of the film begins with a text overlay of the scene description from the script. The full text is never on screen long enough to be read in its entirety. This reinforces the sense of story and dialogue as texture... of text as texture.

    The 2nd third of the film moves away from the visual overload mode as the theme of collecting sexual fantasies (represented by the women in the harem built by the Father and Son) comes into focus. It reminds me a bit of the collage-novels of Max Ernst in that it hangs a string of reveries on the framework of linear narrative... but the narrative is really just an excuse for manipulating images.

    The 3rd third becomes a bit turgid, probably because the pattern of collecting women (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8...) has become obvious by this time. In fact the film shows itself for what it really is.... a catalogue of desires. It is not particularly erotic though it represents a list of fantasies... whatever the subject is, it still retains the character of a list. This has the effect normalizing the erotic. One no longer questions whether the pleasures depicted are "normal" or "perverse"... they all become equal... a decorative pattern.... in much the same way that the dialogue resembles a complex pattern more than it does naturalistic speech.

    In many ways it reminds me of De Sade's "120 days of Sodom" (an old Surrealist favorite) which I also find to be as un-erotic as a list. As one of the characters in the film states: (it simply) "follows the fantasies to their logical conclusion". It seems to be more of an intellectual exercise aimed at unshackling desire... it does not seem to be aimed at provoking desire (in the viewer).

    There are, however, many poetic passages. During a scene in which one of the women is shaved bald the father and son pick up clumps of hair and attempt to describe the smell:

    "it smells like canaries...'

    "like brown sugar taken out of a damp paper bag..." &tc.

    The images are also poetic. My favorite is a japanese woman clad in a very red kimono singing nasally in front of a very blue door & next to a very pink pig.

    The sons (apparent) ability to invoke earthquakes (orgasms?) is also an interesting poetic touch.
  • John Standing plays Philip Emmenthal, a banker who has just gained control of some pachinko parlours. His odd son Storey is looking after them in Japan, while Philip resides in his mansion in Geneva. When Philip's wife dies, he tells Storey to return to Geneva to console him. While there, Storey takes Philip to see Felini's 8 1/2, and it gives them both an inspiration to use their mansion as a bordello. They go back to Japan and bring an assortment of women back to the mansion.

    The women are all unusual. One of them, a nun, has her head shaved and speaks in a weird Dutch-sounding language. Another one keeps getting pregnant. One falls off her horse. One has a huge pet pig. Storey, and especially Philip, have both found a new lease of life. There are plenty of nude bodies on show, although hardly any sex. The two men continually talk about penises. Greenaway seems to have indulged himself in this film with sexual wallowing, with plenty of talk about sex and nude bodies. But the film is not all that bad. Certainly not as bad as it was poorly received in Cannes last year. It is yet another Greenaway film that is beautiful to look at. The setting is nice, it was filmed in Luxembourg. Not one of Greenaway's best films, but certainly worth watching.
  • It seems that when Peter Greenaway lets his hair down, he automatically reverts back to adolescence. 8 1/2 WOMEN is visually striking and the dialogue has a rhythm and cadence to it that's a joy to listen. But the whole thing is simply infantile. I'm aware that the movie is not meant to be taken seriously and that the characters in the story are immature spoiled brats but that doesn't mean the movie itself has to feel like it was done by an immature, spoiled artist. The end product feels more like someone who's got too much time on his hands and creates movies from whatever pops in his head than something that comes from the heart or mind. Few of the characters are interesting, as people or as subjects for a movie. The dialogue was funny and caustic but the constant need to blurt out certain "shocking" words was really silly, and got only sillier by the end of the film. Only the brilliant visual and aural feast that usually typifies a Greenaway film made this worth watching.
  • This is a baffling film.

    The beauty in sexual relations between men and women is shown degraded by a set of men and women who can only be described as a collection of oddballs and misfits.

    Greenaway acknowledges his inspiration to Fellini's film "8 1/2" but whereas Fellini is a titan of world cinema, Greenaway is not.

    He has none of the maestro's lightness of touch nor his ability to convey feelings and emotions with a deftness of clarity.

    He is pretentious, the film being divided into chapters with a written introduction to each, as if the viewer has to be guided into the film except that the written notices only stay on screen for a few seconds, not long enough to be read by the audience with the result that they are mostly ignored.

    As for the women, only two can be described as lookers, Palmira, played by Polly Walker and Giaconda played by Natacha Amal. The rest ooze with ordinariness. Both the women and the men retreat from the harsh light of reality into the dim shades of fantasy.

    Greenaway obviously wants to make the point that sexual fantasy does not lead to happiness. The women themselves are depressing since they render their services in exchange for money. Relations between men and women are debased into a commercial transaction.

    There is no sense of joy or happiness or love in the film, indeed there are several scenes that are deeply unpleasant :

    The suggestion of an incestuous relationship between father and son, Philip and Storey Emmental played respectively by John Standing and Matthew Delamere. The callous disregard of both men that Giaconda is carrying their child, she in fact, gets pregnant twice, the first foetus being aborted and the second time, she is sent away to a destination chosen by the men from a flight book. Both men having sex with a woman who has no legs, (the half woman in the title). The beastiality that exists between Beryl, played by Amanda Plummer, with a pig named Hortense. Father and son sharing women between them. Women enjoying being beaten sexually. The father sleeping with the corpse of his dead wife.

    Mercifully, none of these scenes are shown sexually, only hinted at.

    The hinted degradation of women is such that there cannot be any wonder that the film was booed at when it was first premiered at Cannes. What is more extraordinary is that the actresses in the film lined up to defend it, showing yet again that there is no limit to the naivety of women and that women will fool themselves into being exploited by men.

    Greenaway's directorial style is pretentious, it is a triumph of style over substance, a depiction of Film as Art accompanied by the abandonment of common sense.

    Greenaway tries to attain the sublimity of surrealism but only succeeds in showing the banality of human relationships.
  • ferdinand193225 October 2005
    Greenaway's films pose as clever, erudite and innovative. Yet his style and grammar originate and remind viewers of films made in the World War 1 era of film-making: the frame composition, use of mid-shot, the static camera. It may be well to rub against mainstream movies with this style but it is not new. Perhaps like that other "innovator", TS Eliot, he draws more from the past than in looking forward as an authentic innovator would or could.

    Yet Greenaway's biggest failing is that he cannot write. His dialog and even plot structure is mechanical and logical but without the vitality of another dramatic logician, Brecht. Where this weakness is most apparent is in his humor, which is poised and logical, so the joke is dead before it's delivered. The result is tedium: if it's not funny, it has failed: ask a stand-up comedian to justify their act if the audience doesn't respond. Perhaps the well-read director could learn something from Freud on humor.

    Finally, like Woody Allen, Greenaway has manipulated his actors over the years to work like clones. They speak the lines with a bored, smug air like narcissistic adolescents.

    This film, despite its design and lighting, is meretricious.
  • It's unfortunate, really, that Greenaway had to come off Pillow Book to make this movie. I had been looking forward to it for a while and it finally opened in Texas yesterday.

    It's with great remorse that I write that this movie was tremendously bad. It was sort of like a Brahms concerto--nary a climactic scene in sight.

    The acting was stilted (Vivian Wu, the only actress Greenaway has ever used twice, was unfortunately not used well). The scenes and lighting and cinematography were lush, as is to be expected from this director. But nearly everything else about this movie was ponderous. It was definitely long enough for there to have been an adequately developed story/character/plot/anything, but there was none. This movie did nothing. It broached nothing. It made no point. Maybe it'll get better with age and with more in-depth viewing, but, if that's the case, save your eight dollars and see it on video.
  • Most disappointing -- Greenaway's slide continues on from the flagrantly banal "Pillow Book", which looked like a pornographic Sprint commercial and had about as much intellectual impact. The thin visual style of "Women" harkened back to "Drowning by Numbers", one of my personal favorites, but the interchangeable, glibly apathetic characters lacked the depth necessary to hold it up. As usual, some interesting discussion of the body and its trappings, but sadly, prematurely self-referential and dull on the whole. Note that Vivian Wu manages to turn in yet another openly wretched performance, this time while fully clothed; Toni Collette provides minor temporary relief with her hilarious accent.
  • Greenaway's '8 1/2 Women' does indeed require patience, i recently watched the film with a friend who found '8 1/2...' tiresome towards the end, though it was an enjoyable experience for both us- we laughed at more than a few of the scenes, particularly a scene in the first half hour in which Storey and his father attend the funeral of their beloved mother/wife. The film is a big improvement on 'Prospero's Books', but none of the characters live up to the hilarious performance of Michael Gambon in 'The cook, the thief, his wife and her lover'. If you enjoy subtle, slow-paced narratives then you will find '8 1/2' worth watching, it is strikingly original and in some ways quite shocking- overall an enjoyable piece of work.
  • First of all, the camera set ups included only - wide, extremely wide and extreme close ups. Secondly, the old man walking around naked with blood running down his penis and leg while calmly stating, "That woman must have her insides ripped to shreds." was completely over the top. And last of all, we did not get a chance to get attached to any of the characters, so, why should we care if they leave?
  • Writer/Director Peter Greenaway cements his title as the High Lord of Art House Pretension with his latest exercise in obnoxious self-indulgence, 8 ½ Women. The film follows a wealthy Englishman and his son on their mutual quest for sexual satisfaction, as they lure and blackmail women (guess how many) into joining their personal collection of concubines.

    Think of any possible way that this premise could be offensive, and chances are Greenaway's done it. The female characters are little more than a catalogue of fetishes for the two protagonists to partake of. There's the Kabuki-obsessed Mio, the ever-pregnant Giaconda and Beryl, who's got a thing for farm animals. Giulietta has no legs and uses a wheelchair, she's the "half woman," get it? Greenaway vehemently denies all accusations of misogyny, but if this isn't it, then what is?

    The film goes on to eroticize anything and everything having to do with Japan, a continuation of themes from his snore-worthy (but less sexist) 1996 film, The Pillow Book. But where the The Pillow Book was erotic and graceful, 8 ½ Women just gets horny and exploitative. Greenaway's work is tasteless and arrogant in its fetishism, and the only person likely to enjoy watching it is the auteur himself.
  • I am a big fan of Peter Greenaway movies - I respect the fact that his films are exercises in intellect and visual art, and he can take cinema to a higher plane. However, this movie is simply too difficult too watch. Father/son incest - initiated by the son - is just too disgusting a topic for even the most broadminded and dispassionate. Not that that one scene particularly dominates the movie. What dominates the movie is the pointlessness of why this new widower and his son get eight women (and a half) to share their mansion in Switzerland so that can all have emotionless sex, then eventually the women all start to leave and the leads are killed off. It's not so much silly as annoying -there must be some point to it all. Perhaps Greenaway will tell everyone one day. Stick to watching Draughtman's Contract, The Cook and Belly of an Architect.
  • somewhere i'd read that this film is supposed to be a comedy. after seeing it, i'd call it anything but. the point of this movie eludes me. the dialogue is all extremely superficial and absurd, many of the sets seemed to be afterthoughts, and despite all the nudity and implied sexual content, there's nothing erotic about this film...all leaving me to wonder just what the heck this thing is about! the title premise could have been the basis for a fun (if politically incorrect) comedy. instead, we're treated to cheap, amateurish, unfinished sketches and depravity and weirdness for its own sake. if i want that, i'll go buy a grace jones cd.
  • Stilted, stagy, strange and opaque, if visually striking ... a wannabe-erotic fantasy. Really boring, way too much male nudity (including father-son incest), and just a sort of shameless pointlessness. I will confess, however, that certain passages of dialogue, taken on their own terms, do have a lulling, haunting quality.
  • let me just say that drowning by numbers is one of my favourite films of all time.. and 8 1/2 women sometimes reminded me of drowning by numbers.. not often enough for me to love it, but often enough for me to enjoy the film..

    it amazes me that greenaway can get away with the stuff he gets away with.. yes it is arty, but he is one of the few directors where the "artiness" of his films does not irritate me. i was not all that keen on the pillow book mind you.. and baby of macon nearly pushed me out of my seat - definitely had to fast forward through parts of that one.. but overall, he is ALMOST able to make the most horrific and bizarre events seem normal or almost beautiful. almost. they still seem horrific, but if i saw these same events depicted elsewhere i would most likey be horrified enough to walk away. which, as a matter of fact, the person i went to the film with, did. he walked out, and i wasn't surprised. but that is neither here nor there..

    i enjoyed the perverseness of the film.. that you saw all these ugly, normal-looking, and beautiful bodies doing (or talking about doing) strange (i hope i am not the only one who thinks that many of these things were strange?!) things.. primarily sexual things. and i liked the characters.. some of the art direction was beautiful as well.. i tend to enjoy some of greenaways older scripts more, but this one had its moments..

    not a good film for people who don't like looking at the human body. a lot.
  • kenjha28 April 2006
    To overcome the death of his wife, an old man does what anyone in his position would naturally do (at least in a Peter Greenaway movie): he and his son populate their home with eight and a half (one has no legs) women and embark on a sexual odyssey. This being a Greenaway film, there is lots of pretentious and uninteresting blabbering and of course there is unnecessary male nudity. In fact the father and son share a bed sleeping in the nude. Gross. Besides, who wants to see an old guy full frontal? For those who are not into the homo-erotic scene, one of the women likes to do the nasty with horses. There is no story - just a random collection of dull scenes.
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