8 1/2 Women

Writer-director Peter Greenaway never uses narrative lightly, but in this reflexive fiction, set mainly in a Kyoto pachinko parlor and on a Geneva estate, references to the act of filmmaking exhaust their impact pretty quickly. A woman dies, and her son and husband respond by embarking on a sexual odyssey that at first seems as thought provoking as it is iconoclastic. The nearly continuous discussion between father and son is punctuated by largely elided sex acts and set in varied locations whose establishing shots have superimposed texts representing the pages of a screenplay from which the scenes might have been drawn. Greenaway wants viewers to rethink the purpose of cinema, and his points are radical and clear. When the son decides he wants to make a film, the father wonders why, explaining that most people make films about the things they haven't got, such as sex and happiness. To really expose an embarrassing truth about cinema—that it's fantasy for the filmmaker as well as the audience—could revolutionize it. Maybe eventually someone will. With Polly Walker, Amanda Plummer, Toni Collette, Vivian Wu, John Standing, and Matthew Delamere. 120 min.

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