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8½ Women

Rated [R], 120 minutes
Starring Matthew Delamere, John Standing
Written and Directed by Peter Greenaway

IN SHORT: Pretty Pictures and thoroughly incomprehensible story.

We'd bet there's a helluva lot to compare to with Peter Greenaway's homage to Frederico Fellini's , but we don't compare to Source Material, and we're not about to start now.

In Japan, there is a game called Pachinko which can best be described as an amalgam of pinball and slot machines. It is, apparently, incredibly psychologically addictive and players can run up huge debts to the owners of Pachinko parlors that fill the cities. 8½ Women begins with the acquisition of a chain of 8½ parlors by a [Swiss] businessman, Storey Emmenthal (Matthew Delamere). As the new owner, Storey discovers that Japanese women are more than willing to trade sex for credit, which will come in handy later in the film.

The news from the family estate in Geneva is not good. Storey's mother has died and his father Philip (John Standing) is on the verge of emotional collapse. Son takes father out to see Fellini's , and the pair are inspired to create their own personal harem, beginning with the woman who is willing to swap sex for pachinko credit. The women they acquire are all colorful in their own right: a nun, a woman who has close relationships with a horse and a pig; a woman who sees femininity best represented in the work of male Kabuki female impersonators; an incredibly fertile baby-maker and a run of others.

Sometimes the film is in Japan. Sometimes it is in Geneva. How it moves from one to the other is never clear. Nor is there any logical progression of a story line, save that both father and son sleep with, and are in some ways affected by, the women. Everyone gets naked. Everybody has their particular kink and while writer/director Peter Greenaway maintains that there is a reason for everything seen in every scene, it was all quite beyond this viewer.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to 8½ Women, he would have paid...


Greenaway says in the press notes that he views films like the fine pictures you would see in a museum, and return to again and again. Why then should you not return to his films again and again?

Like certain Picasso paintings, only the maker has any idea what the devil is going on.

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.