Reflections

SXSW 2000 Film Festival and Conference

8 1/2 WOMEN

Dir/Scr: Peter Greenaway; Prod: Kees Kasander; Exec Prod: Terry Glinwood, Bob Hubar, Denis Wigman; DP: Sacha Vierny; Ed: Elmer Leupen; Cast: Polly Walker, Amanda Plummer, Toni Collette, Vivian Wu, John Standing, Matthew DeLaMare.

35mm, 121 min., 1999 (USP)

Whores, earthquake fetishism, bizarre film compositions, and an unsettling tribute to Fellini: the newest by British director Greenaway (Prospero's Books, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover) is predictably out there. But where, exactly, is that? Fans of the filmmaker's previous forays into the absurd and outrageous will recognize the standard Greenaway traits -- maddening set-pieces arranged, lighted, and filmed as if they were part of some "old masters meets new masters" art show at the Met: cryptic motivations and rationales, and an overall surreality to the proceedings. As in The Pillow Book, Greenaway plays havoc with narrative conventions, this time wrapping certain scenes in literal stage directions as instructions to the viewer unfold on the screen. The story -- a rich man loses his wife and then, with his son, creates a veritable stable of new ones (a legless woman becoming the titular 1/2) to take her place -- is pure Greenaway, affording the director the chance to comment obliquely on sexual frustration, power plays, and why you ought to sell your Tokyo pachinko parlor when you have the chance. It's surely not for all tastes -- Greenaway never is -- but attentive viewers will be rewarded, if they can sit still long enough.

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