8 Women

Directed by Peter Greenaway
Starring: John Standing, Matthew Delamere, Vivian Wu, Annie Shizuka Inoh, Toni Collette, Amanda Plummer, Natacha Amal, Polly Walker.
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content including dialogue and pervasive nudity.

Review by Matt Heffernan
May 26, 2000

Shanghai Noon may have based its title on High Noon, but it makes no reference to the Gary Cooper classic within the film, thus preventing any comparison. Peter Greenaway, on the other hand, has the audacity to tease the audience with the brilliance of Fellini, then punishes them with a film that constantly reminds them of its inferiority.

John Standing plays Philip Emmenthal, an English banker who lives in Geneva. He acquires a chain of Pachinko Parlors in Kyoto, and his son Storey (Matthew Delamere) is sent to manage it. Soon, Philip's wife dies, and he calls Phillip in Japan to return to Switzerland.

Storey starts asking his father about his views of and experiences with sex. One night, they actually sleep together (yes, that was the precise moment that I would have left the theatre, if I didn't intend to review the film), and the next day they see Fellini's 8. Their conversation continues in the theatre, and they realize that they should turn their lives into a Fellini film. This involves collecting a harem of 8 women -- the extra half is one Japanese girl who has no legs -- and fulfilling their sexual fantasies.

Can a film get much weirder than this? No, not much. I don't mind weirdness, per se, as long as the film is made well. I truly believe that this film could have been made well, but apparently Greenaway had some other ideas. This collection of non sequitur editing and odd dialogue just goes on for two hours, never amounting to anything. On top of that, the content is excessively disturbing without being provocative. For those less adept at math, that sum equals painful boredom.

The cast assembled was quite good, but Greenaway's screenplay only proves to make them look bad. The result is international amateur hour. The harem is filled with familiar, talented actresses, including Amanda Plummer, Toni Collette, and Polly Walker. Now I have to look at them differently, knowing that they lacked the good sense to stay away from this project. I've also seen enough of Standing's penis to preclude any enthusiasm I might have for his next project.

The question that a filmgoer must ask is whether 8 Women is pretentious and misguided, or just plain stupid. Whatever intelligence that was in this film has escaped me, so my vote goes for the latter.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
8 Women (1999)

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8 Women (1999) -- VHS
8 Women (1999) -- DVD

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan