Floral Pattern


Women is the soppy French-language version of Steel Magnolias, featuring five middle-aged femmes-one dying, all longing-and a beauty parlor. With a bouquet of lascivious lilies standing in for their slower southern sisters, Luís Galvão Teles’s film is another foolhardy, albeit sexier, attempt to capture the “essential feminine” plagued by waning looks, painful loss, and desperate desire. Carmen Maura (of Almodóvar fame) plays Linda, a TV journalist who interviews her four best friends, Branca (Guesch Patti), Eva (Miou-Miou), Chloe (Marisa Berenson), and Barbara (Marthe Keller), for a feature about what women want. Teles answers this question in the film’s theme song, a cabaret number about pleasure and useless men sung by Branca, the group’s prodigal mom. Pleasure is depicted as sex that simultaneously transcends and sanctifies traditional taboos: a quasi-incestuous fling between Barbara’s son and Eva (his literature professor) is blessed by everyone including Barbara. Excepting Branca’s strung-out daughter, Teles’s vision of youth is unbearably light-women under 30 appear in roller skates or braids. Men in the movie likewise carry little weight. Linda’s broken clocks and a cat named Kafka remind us that Women is about time and identity, issues Teles seems to think apply to just the female half of humanity.