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The Pillow Book (1996)

A 1996 movie directed by Peter Greenaway.

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A breathtakingly magnificent visual experience!

  • Feb 8, 2003
  • by
THE PILLOW BOOK goes where few films have dared. Peter Greenaway is a unique artist and has created a touching story in a cinematic technique that is clearly his own. Simply stated, The Pillow Book is a journal kept by Japanese women who write private thoughts about desire, beauty, sensuality, and the moments in life that are indescribably unforgetable. In this story we see the unfolding of the life of a daughter of a calligrapher/writer who is able to provide for this beloved family and all their traditions by his assignations with his publisher. The child is taught her father's skills, each birthday having her father write the story of creation on her face, signed by 'god' on her back. This 'writing on the body' is eventually the means of gaining revenge on her father's demeaning publisher: she searches for the perfect lover (one who can make love as well as write beautifully in calligraphy) only to find a British translator (who happens to be the lover of her publisher)who encourages the girl to write her uniquely original books on his body - the matrix for delivery of her book to the publisher, a man who otherwise has rejected her gifts. To reveal the ending would spoil the mesmerizing intrigue of the film. Suffice it to say that love and honor eventually triumph...

The techniques of cinematic magic include the simultneous use of Black and White photogrpahy with Color photography, screens within screens, still life within motion, the wonder of observing Japanese writing, the use of written scrolls superimposed on moments of story telling. Greenaway is one of the very few directors who is unafraid of frontal nudity. He has the beauty of Vivian Wu and Ewan McGregor which he paints sensually, allowing the camera to view the entire body being adorned both with calligraphy and with love making. But seeing is believing and for those who thirst for originality in art, for adoration of the human form, for sensitive story telling with a subject that is wholly unique, then this film is a MUST.
THE PILLOW BOOK should be in the art library of all art lovers.

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review by . October 06, 2010
Peter Greenaway can never be accused of making movies.  He is resolutely a maker of art films for so-called “art house” theaters.      Since movies are foremost a visual medium, so his attention is always on that aspect.  All of his films try to tell a story, but as often as not it gets lost in a convoluted telling.      The Pillow Book is the exception.  The film never stops being pretty, but the story is strong enough to withstand …
review by . April 18, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
"The Pillow Book"     Sensual and Erotic     Amos Lassen and Cinema Pride     To describe "The Pillow Book" is a very difficult task. Is it exotic or is it erotic or maybe both? It is sensual, delicate and beautiful. The music is mysterious and the cinematography is stunning.   As a young girl in Japan, Nagiko's father paints characters on her face. Her aunt reads to her from "The Pillow Book" which was the diary of a lady-in-waiting …
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Grady Harp ()
Ranked #97
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Peter Greenaway (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover,Drowning by Numbers) continues to delight and disturb us with his talent for combining storytelling with optic artistry.The Pillow Bookis divided into 10 chapters (consistent with Greenaway's love of numbers and lists) and is shot to be viewed like a book, complete with tantalizing illustrations and footnotes (subtitles) and using television's "screen-in-screen" technology. As a child in Japan, Nagiko's father celebrates her birthday retelling the Japanese creation myth and writing on her flesh in beautiful calligraphy, while her aunt reads a list of "beautiful things" from a 10th-century pillow book. As she gets older, Nagiko (Vivian Wu) looks for a lover with calligraphy skills to continue the annual ritual. She is initially thrilled when she encounters Jerome (Ewan McGregor), a bisexual translator who can speak and write several languages, but soon realizes that although he is a magnificent lover, his penmanship is less than acceptable. When Nagiko dismisses the enamored Jerome, he suggests she use his flesh as the pages which to present her own pillow book. The film, complete with a musical score as international as the languages used in the narration, is visually hypnotic and truly an immense "work of art."--Michele Goodson
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Director: Peter Greenaway
Screen Writer: Peter Greenaway, Sei Shonagon
DVD Release Date: December 15, 1998
Runtime: 126 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
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