8 Women


Father and son Philip and Storey (Standing, left, and Delamere, right) with one of their fantasy women (Mano).
dir-scr Peter Greenaway
with John Standing, Matthew Delamere, Vivian Wu, Toni Collette, Amanda Plummer, Polly Walker, Shizuka Inoh, Barbara Sarafian, Kirina Mano, Natacha Amal, Manna Fujiwara, Elizabeth Berrington
99/UK 1 out of 5 stars

You never know what kind of stylish concoction Peter Greenaway will come up with next, but you can usually be sure it'll centre on women who turn the power tables on men. And in 8 Women Greenaway wraps this thesis up in an ode to Euro-cinema, specifically Fellini's 8, the classic filmmakers' film. Sounds promising. Sadly, it doesn't deliver the goods.

The film is about a father and son: the wealthy Philip (Standing) owns a mansion in Geneva, the entrepreneurial Storey (Delamere) runs a business in Kyoto. When their wife/mother dies, they team up to make sense of life ... and eventually embark on a project to collect a set of idealised women at the Geneva homestead. This includes a sharply efficient assistant (Wu), a shy Kabuki fan (Mano), an evergetic thief (Inoh), a kindly housekeeper (Sarafian), a nun (Collette), a horsewoman (Plummer), an earth mother (Amal), a tireless lover (Walker) and a half-woman with no legs (Fujiwara). It's their own personal harem, but of course jealousy rears its head. And then the women assert their independence.

The basic problem is that it's utter rubbish. Nothing about the story, dialog or characters ever touches a nerve, despite startlingly brave performances and Greenaway's always-arresting visual style. The film's only real value is as a curiosity ... and a huge disappointment. Especially since the idea itself is intriguing. And because Greenaway has said the same thing before in much more clever, assured, effective and affecting ways.

[15--strong adult themes, nudity, language, sexual situations] 27.Oct.99
UK release 10.Dec.99; US release 26.May.00

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1999 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall