Equal parts schematic and distasteful, Peter Greenaway's distasteful homage to Fellini's 81/2 couldn't be a more different film; for all his love of the grotesque, Fellini is driven by palpable awe of women's allure. Greenaway loves only a freak show;
his film is predicated on the notion that all women are whores and marbled with contempt and disgust. Wealthy businessman Philip Emmenthal (John Standing) is shattered by his wife's death and turns to son Storey (Matthew Delamere) for comfort. Disaffected Storey, who's been running the pachinko
parlor his father recently acquired in Japan, proposes a bold and perverse cure for what ails them both. They'll establish a harem in the family's austere Swiss chateau and fill it with women of all shapes and sizes. By working through their erotic fantasies and fetishes, father and son will learn
something invaluable about themselves and... well, something. Like DROWNING BY NUMBERS, this is essentially a counting exercise, and much of the film is devoted to the acquisition of the women. Simato (Shizuka Inoh) is the first, pimped to Storey by her family to pay off her pachinko debts.
Embezzling employee Griselda (Toni Collette) is blackmailed into acting out a nun fantasy, while perpetually pregnant Giaconda (Natacha Amal) oozes irresistible fecundity. Animal lover Beryl (Amanda Plummer) arrives encased in a fetishistic brace, courtesy of a riding accident. Straight-laced Kito
(Vivian Wu), another Emmenthal employee, joins the harem impulsively and becomes the women's banker; fragile Mio (Kirina Mano) languishes picturesquely. Clothilde (Barbara Sarafian) graduates from maid to courtesan, and sensuous Palmira (Polly Walker) sees the experience as a potentially
profitable lark. Finally, there's legless Giulietta (Manna Fujiwara), the titular half woman. Though his film is breathtakingly art-directed, Greenaway wallows in epater le bourgeois nastiness his inner naughty child could use a good paddling.
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