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The Pillow Book

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Netherlands, United Kingdom, France · 1996
2h 6m
Director Peter Greenaway
Starring Vivian Wu, Yoshi Oida, Ken Ogata, Hideko Yoshida
Genre Drama, Romance

When Nagiko was a girl in Japan, her father wrote calligraphy on her face and her aunt read to her from 'The Pillow Book', a 10th-century diary of a lady in waiting. Now, a grown woman, she seeks someone to fulfill her ultimate fantasy: a lover who will cover her in calligraphy, and create her own Pillow Book.

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Empire by

Here both Greenaway's strengths and weaknesses are on show as he toys with the viewers' capacity to ingest blurring metaphors and convoluted content.


Newsweek by David Ansen

Greenaway uses the screen rather like the calligraphers of the story use the body so that the film becomes a kind of visual "pillow book;" a multi-layered series of inscriptions and reflections with almost hypnotic power.


ReelViews by James Berardinelli

The great irony of this film, which is (at least on one level) about the power of writing, is that the words are of secondary importance to the overwhelming visual presentation.


The New York Times by Janet Maslin

The film is best watched as a richly sensual stylistic exercise filled with audaciously beautiful imagery, captivating symmetries and brilliantly facile tricks.


Los Angeles Times by Kenneth Turan

Despite its arresting visual style, its wave after wave of creative and hypnotic images, The Pillow Book, as its name hints, slowly but inexorably leads to sleep.


Austin Chronicle by Marc Savlov

Greenaway and his picture-perfect cast weave so many interlacing threads into the story, and so many curious subtexts - stylistic and otherwise - that it sometimes leaves us scratching our heads in wonderment.


Entertainment Weekly by Owen Gleiberman

I can't say that I've ever entertained fantasies of writing on someone's body. But Peter Greenaway's The Pillow Book (Cinepix) does, at least, succeed in making it look like an erotic activity.

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