8 1/2 Women

Ah, the bond between father and son is a fabulous subject for film. Writer/director Peter Greenway (The Baby of Macon, The Pillow Book) pounds it to death in 8 1/2 Women, a boring story about a father and son assembling a harem of 8 1/2 women. Yes, 1/2 of a woman. Don't ask. The title as well as the father and son take their cues from Federico Fellini's classic film 8 1/2, which will probably mean nothing to most people. There are two types of people who will watch this film. One is the art house fan, and the other is the man looking for extended sequences of nudity on screen. A warning to the latter group: much of the nudity is of the male variety, including full frontal.

Events unfold in Japan and Geneva. Storey Emmenthal (Matthew Delamere, Shadowlands, Under the Skin) owns several Pachinko Parlors. At one of them, Simato (Shizuka Inoh), a gambling addict, becomes Storey's concubine. By sleeping with him, she earns credit to fuel her addiction. This strange arrangement is the result of Kito (Vivian Wu, The Pillow Book, Heaven and Earth), Storey's business manager. In Geneva, Storey's mother dies, leaving his father Phillip (John Standing, Mrs. Dalloway, Rogue Trader) distraught. Storey and Simato go to Geneva to comfort Phillip. Apparently, Phillip's sexual habits with is wife were nothing compared to the antics of Storey and Simato. Inspired by Fellini, Phillip sets out to create his personal harem, where he can fulfill all of his desires.

Simato and Kito join, as well as Mio (Kirina Mano), a Japanese woman who does not feel feminine. Other eventual inhabitants include Griselda (Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense, Dead by Monday) and Palmira (Polly Walker, Detox, The Gambler), a woman who succumbs to Phillip but not to Storey. The other women are interchangeable and include a horse lover, an amputee, and a woman who obsesses over pregnancy. One large problem with Greenaway's script is that the Emmenthals are not people to relate to. They seem completely devoid of human empathy and clearly have other types of problems. After a while, Phillip begins interchanging the names of his women, which does not help a viewer, since things are already confusing as is.

Much of the film consists of Phillip and Storey having extended conversations, usually with Phillip whining and complaining about something. Their exchanges are dull and boring, as is the rest of the film. The two are immature, selfish, and apparently quite successful, which is baffling. 8 1/2 Women is also intended as a comedy and much of the humor is absent. Initially, there are some humorous moments, but those quickly disappear. The other humor relates to some of the images on screen, but again, those are few and far between. The production notes state that viewers either love or loathe Greenaway's films. Either response here would indicate some sort of success, but 8 1/2 Women engenders only boredom.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 58 minutes. Rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue and pervasive nudity.

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