THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Peter Greenaway has developed a cultish following through films like The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, Prospero's Books, and The Pillow Book, epics of debauchery. His latest release, 8 1/2 Women, is minor compared to those monumental tributes to kinkiness. The story of a recently widowed man and his effete son, 8 1/2 Women won't win Greenaway any new fans and may not even appeal to those who enjoy the grandness of his past works.
Greenaway's philosophy of more-is-better permeates his films in their design (Almodovar's just subletting a room in Greenaway's neon house) and in themes: the father-son combo in 8 1/2 Women populate their newly barren house with concubines (hence the title). Greenaway may strive for Fellini-esque madness (the concubine idea is hatched after a screening of that ode to indecision, 8 1/2), but he tries too hard. 8 1/2 Women manages to be both pretentious and silly, not an easy balance to achieve. This film is of absolutely no interest to anyone not working on a Greenaway grad school thesis. The acting is inconsequential, the plot inane, the characters shallow (although the father-son incest will likely be a new thing for most viewers), and the comedy... well... not funny.
Greenaway is known for his visuals and there are some interesting uses of colors and framing here. The transfer seems ok and is anamorphic.
The lack of music leaves just a dialog heavy track that certainly won't dazzle anyone.
Only a trailer is included. Perhaps a Greenaway commentary track would help enlighten, but I doubt it.
Fans of Greenaway's previous films may enjoy it but as a work that has to stand on it's own, 8 1/2 Women is simply limp.
Gil Jawetz is a graphic designer, video director, and t-shirt designer. He lives in Brooklyn.
E-mail Gil at firstname.lastname@example.org