Pillow Book, The (1996)

Things that make the heart beat faster.

Original Title : Pillow Book, The
Director : Peter Greenaway
Writer : Sei Shonagon
Peter Greenaway
Genre : Drama
Country : France
Language : Japanese - English
Producer : Terry Glinwood , Kees Kasander , Jessinta Liu , Jean-Louis Piel , Tom Reeve , Denis Wigman
Photography : Sacha Vierny
IMDB ID : 0114134
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poster for "Pillow Book, The" by Peter Greenaway (1996)
Pillow Book, The (1996) - Peter Greenaway


¬Vivian Wu Nagiko
¬Yoshi Oida The Publisher
¬Ken Ogata The Father
¬Hideko Yoshida The Aunt/The Maid
¬Ewan McGregor Jerome
¬Judy Ongg The Mother
¬Ken Mitsuishi The Husband
¬Ken Mitsuishi The Husband


As a young girl in Japan, Nagiko's father paints characters on her face, and her mother reads to her from "The Pillow Book", the diary of a 10th-century lady-in-waiting. Nagiko grows up, obsessed with books, papers, and writing on bodies, and her sexual odyssey (and the creation of her own Pillow Book) is a "parfait mélange" of classical Japanese, modern Chinese, and Western film images.


Stop Making Sense I think Greenaway makes very smart films, and I'm really glad he's around. His intellect is always tuned to ideas about the visual, so we get a double measure: his images and his commentary on those same images. You should see this film if you think about communicating by image -- you won't find more beauty and recursive visual depth anywhere else. There are a few flaws in my mind, notable only because the film is so remarkable and because Greenaway shoots so high. A central dance here is the art of the writing (its appearance) and how that relates to the art the writing points to (its semantic meaning). So much elaboration of this works so well that I wonder why Greenaway went to such trouble to make the storyline so comprehensible. It is almost as if he is pandering to critics of his less accessible work. This greatly dilutes the impact for me, takes away from the point that the immediacy and fluidity and directness of the presentation by sense at least trumps the recoil by the mind. Perhaps is wholly substitutes. So why make so much sense? So that people will watch who wouldn't otherwise get it? I wish Greenaway played more with contrasting ritual with spontaneity, especially since the Japan/Hong Kong cultural contrast, the publishing versus modeling contrast (permanent versus faddish), and the promiscuous lovers versus the honored parents all set things up so well. In particular, the soluble temporary nature of the writing turned into permanent tattoos at the end. What of that? It looked decorative only. Her breasts her new pillowbook? If you liked this film, you'll like the book: `Life: a User's Manual' (Perec) which works the same territory but has a better sense of how to come to an end. The hero spends a decade traveling to paint watercolors. These are turned into jigsaw puzzles which he spends a decade reassembling, rebinding the paper, and bleaching out the image. Each puzzle reflects on a story associated with a room or person in the Paris apartment building he has maintained and populated with unwitting tenants.
poster for "Pillow Book, The"
327 x 475
Pillow Book, The (1996) - Peter Greenaway