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8 ½ Women (1999)

 -  Comedy | Drama  -  10 December 1999 (UK)
5.8
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Ratings: 5.8/10 from 3,072 users   Metascore: 36/100
Reviews: 44 user | 41 critic | 25 from Metacritic.com

Following the death of a mother, a father and son open up a brothel in their Genevan estate after watching (1963).

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Title: 8 ½ Women (1999)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Philip Emmenthal
Matthew Delamere ...
Storey Emmenthal
...
Kito
Annie Shizuka Inoh ...
Simato (as Shizuka Inoh)
...
Clothilde
Kirina Mano ...
Mio
...
Griselda / Sister Concordia
...
Beryl
...
Giaconda the Baby Factory
Manna Fujiwara ...
Giulietta / Half Woman
...
Palmira
...
Celeste, Emmenthal Maid
Myriam Muller ...
Marianne, Emmenthal Maid
...
Simon
...
Amelia, Philip's Wife
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Storyline

After his wife dies, 55-year-old businessman Philip Emmenthal, at the prompting of his playboy son Storey, populates his Geneva villa with eight and a half concubines. Three are from Kyoto, where Storey manages Pachinco palaces. Each has a distinctive personality: a nun, a child bearer, a gambler, a student of Kabuki, a horsewoman with a pet pig, a maid. Philip throws off his strait-laced and repressed attitudes, immersing himself in pleasure. After about a year, the women begin to assert their own power. Side adventures pre-figure the household's breakup, and the women depart in one way or another, one at at time. Philip's fate is in the hands of Palmira, his favorite. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

businessman | maid | kabuki | brothel | pig | See more »

Taglines:

When sexual desire becomes an obsession, it's every man for himself. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue and pervasive nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

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Language:

| | |

Release Date:

10 December 1999 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

8 femmes 1/2  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$92,000 (USA) (26 May 2000)

Gross:

$417,517 (USA) (21 July 2000)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Philip Emmenthal: When I was young I hated my body because it was so thin... now I try not to look at it too much because it's so old. There perhaps might have been just six months when I felt comfortable with it; when I discovered alcohol for the first time and learnt to drive and was fattening out and had just met your mother.
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Connections

Features  (1963) See more »

Soundtracks

On a Slow Boat to China
Written by Frank Loesser
Performed by John Standing, Matthew Delamere
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User Reviews

 
Better than its Reputation
28 June 2004 | by (London) – See all my reviews

Despite being hissed at Cannes this film is still well worth seeing. I purchased the DVD and the more I watch it the better I like it. For a start, as with all Greenaway's work since The Falls, the photography is ravishing. I don't think anyone makes films which look better.

What few have picked up on is that (as well as an attempt to pick up Fellini's 8 1/2-ball and run with it), this is almost a remake of "A Zed and Two Noughts". Both films study bizarre responses to bereavement. both films play on doubling, in this case a father and son rather than two brothers. Both films touch on bestiality (with animals called Hortense!), gynecology, sex with amputees, a menagerie (in this case of women rather than animals), prostitution, uses of light, storytelling, and the colours black and white.

Where that film referenced painting, this references performance in many guises - cinema, kabuki, cross-dressing, opera, television, prostitution, as well as painting.

Contrary to at least one other user comment, there is no sexual intercourse shown in the film, although there is a quantity of nudity. It's very odd, if perhaps unsurprising, that this film has been sold as a sexy movie. SexIST? Well, confusing an ironic depiction of men's sexual fantasies with a reduction of women to the level of fantasy is 'politically correct' laziness at best. And as with most of Greenaway's films, the women are the winners in the end.

One reason this is harder work than the earlier film is the lack of Michael Nyman's ravishing music. I'm not sure why Greenaway stopped working with Nyman; possibly he felt he was stuck in a rut - perhaps he was nettled by charges that any old footage looked like Greenaway if you played Nyman's music behind it. Either way, he's yet to arrive at a truly satisfactory alternative. Here we have "Slow Boat to China" sung a capella by the two leads, rather after the manner of Morecambe and Wise. It's quite funny, but it's not the marriage of sound and image of earlier films.

The extent to which Philip Emmenthal represents Greenaway himself is perhaps worth considering. A character makes reference to Fellini having Mastroianni make love to all the women Fellini couldn't, and asks whether all directors make films to fulfil their own sexual fantasies. Emmenthal is notably the same age as Greenaway.

He may not be sweeping the art-house scene before him these days (in fact there's not much of an art-house scene left these days), but in the end, even below-par Greenaway is better than 99% of directors can even aspire to.


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