Pillow Book

The Pillow Book

4.0 4
Director: Peter Greenaway, Vivian Wu, Ewan McGregor, Yoshi Oida

Cast: Peter Greenaway, Vivian Wu, Ewan McGregor, Yoshi Oida


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Peter Greenaway directed this elliptical and visually intricate tale of the far side of erotic and intellectual attraction. As a girl, Nagiko would receive a special gift each year from her father: a calligrapher (Ken Ogata) who would carefully paint a poem on her face, as her aunt (Hideko Yoshida) read aloud from The Pillow Book, a classic Japanese text on the


Peter Greenaway directed this elliptical and visually intricate tale of the far side of erotic and intellectual attraction. As a girl, Nagiko would receive a special gift each year from her father: a calligrapher (Ken Ogata) who would carefully paint a poem on her face, as her aunt (Hideko Yoshida) read aloud from The Pillow Book, a classic Japanese text on the art of love. As Nagiko (Vivian Wu) reached adulthood, her father insisted on putting a stop to this ritual, and he persuaded her to marry the nephew of his publisher (Ken Mitsuishi). But Nagiko is not satisfied with her husband, and after finding success as a model, she seeks a lover who will indulge her fondness for literature by writing verse on her naked body. In time, she finds happiness with a British expatriate named Jerome (Ewan McGregor), who persuades her to use his body as paper for her poetry, but the interference of her father's publisher (Yoshi Oida) gives their relationship a tragic turn. Greenaway deliberately mistranslated some of the French and Japanese dialogue for The Pillow Book, hoping that the occasionally fractured language would give the film a "Tower of Babel" quality.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Todd Kristel
Some films get the audience emotionally involved in the lives of thoroughly developed characters; other films use characters as props and place the main emphasis on ideas or visual style. The Pillow Book falls into the latter category. Greenaway doesn't exude much compassion for his characters, even the sympathetic ones; although this film is ostensibly about erotic attraction, it's too cold and detached to generate much passion or sexual arousal. In some respects, Greenaway resembles Stanley Kubrick, whose clinical approach to his characters suggested that he viewed himself as an entomologist examining the behavior of an inferior life form under a microscope. Of course, some people would consider it a great compliment to be compared to Kubrick, and The Pillow Book demonstrates that Greenaway, like Kubrick, has a strong visual sense. Indeed, the visual elements of The Pillow Book are crucial because the film isn't just about people who happen to be involved in calligraphy; it's about the beauty of calligraphy itself, as well as a showcase for Greenaway and his colleagues to manipulate the visual (and audio) elements of the film. For example, Greenaway uses this movie to explore the differences between Eastern and Western forms of calligraphy and fine arts, including the direction of reading text and both the framing and fragmentation of picture space. You could say that he directs like a painter whose visual style depends more on the simultaneous placement of images on the picture frame than on editing or camera movement; you could say that he seems more excited by the ways he can densely pack his film with visual information than by the naked coupling of Vivian Wu and Ewan McGregor; and you could also say that his love of art compensates, at least partly, for his detached approach to his characters. So while Greenaway could have done more to get viewers involved in the relationship between Nagiko and Jerome, at least he offers us something interesting to look at.

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Special Features

Closed Caption; Commentary by director Peter Greenaway; A new essay by film critic Nicolas Rapold

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Vivian Wu Nagiko
Ewan McGregor Jerome
Yoshi Oida The Publisher
Ken Ogata The Father
Hideko Yoshida The Aunt/The Maid
Barbara Lott Jerome's Mother
Judy Ongg The Mother
Ken Mitsuishi The Husband
Hikari Abe Nagiko's Baby
Mariko Ajimoto 10th Century Woman
Chrissy Ann Model
Augusto Aristotle Calligrapher
Ryuko Azuma Grandmother
Chris Bearne Calligrapher
Valerie Buchanon Actor
Cham Ben Actor
Andrew Chan Actor
Farini Chang Actor
Chau Lam Intruder
Chau Kwok Kwong Actor
Edelme Christanse Actor
Anna Chu Actor
Tania De Jaeger Model Friend in Café Typo
Fabienne De Marco Model Friend in Café Typo
Dehong Chen Calligrapher
Wichert Dromkert The Book of the Innocent
Louis Yiu Shi Fu Actor
Ronald Guttman Publisher
Kana Haraguchi 10th Century Woman
Midori Hatsuda Model
Miwa Hayashi Model
Yuki Hayashi Young Female Secretary
Hidashi Hidaka Calligrapher
Yutaka Honda Hoki
Daishi Hori The Book of Youth
Tokiko Horiike 10th Century Woman
Hui Pai Kin Actor
Seizo H. Inoue 10th Century Man
Yuri Inoue 10th Century Woman
Aki Ishimaru Young Nagiko
Kazushi Ishimaru Baby Nagiko
Jo Jo Hui Actor
Bobsy Jureidini Actor
Ai Kanafuji Nagiko's Friend
Tom Kane The Book of the Exhibitionist
Miwako Kawai Young Nagiko
Yoshihiro Kawai 10th Century Man
Ville Khaapassalo Intruder
Kheim Lam The Book of the Seducer
Satomi Kimura Nagiko's Friend
Tatsuya Kimura Nephew
Toshio Kimura 10th Century Man
Fukue Kitaoka 10th Century Woman
Kumi Komino Elderly Secretary
Seitaro Koyama Nephew
Adrian Kwan Actor
Stephen C. Lam Actor
Vanessa Lanza Actor
Jimmy Wai Chung Lee Actor
Anita Pui Shan Leung Actor
Sammuel Leung Actor
Li Chun Man Actor
Jim-Adhi Limas Man in Lift
Lu Jinhua Wife of Calligrapher
Doris Lai Fong Lui Actor
Ham-Chau Luong Calligrapher
Masaru Matsuda The Book of Birth & Beginnings
Kentaro Matsuo Calligrapher
Michiko Matsuo Nagiko's Friend
Atsushi Miura Husband's Friend
Takashi Miyake 10th Century Man
Mr. Lo Old Servant
Mrs. Lo Wife
Kintaro Murayama Nagiko's Friend
Wataru Murofushi The Book of the Dead
Yoshihiko Nagata Husband's Friend
Hiroshi Nakajima 10th Century Man
Atsuko Nakamura 10th Century Woman
Miwako Namie 10th Century Woman
Nguyen Duc Nhan Calligrapher
Michell Leigh Nicholson Actor
Akihiro Nishida Calligrapher
Masami Nishio Nagiko's Friend
Kiymi Nomura Model
Yuki Nou Nagiko's Friend
Yuko Nozawa Model
Yasuko Ogawa 10th Century Woman
Ohko Model
Chizuru Ohnishi Young Nagiko
Poon Wing Hong Actor
Roger To Thanh Hien Calligrapher
Sam Actor
See Wah Leung Intruder
See Yan Leung Bookshop Manager
Yuko Shimomura 10th Century Woman
Junko Shinohara Model
Kageyoshi Shirakata 10th Century Man
Makiko Shoji 10th Century Woman
Woo Leung Actor
Arnita Swanson Edele
Shiho Takamatsu Young Nagiko
Masakazu Takemura 10th Century Man
Maskai Taketani Young Male Secretary
Eiichi Tanaka The Book of the Betrayer
Miho Tanaka Model Friend in Café Typo
Hiromi Tani 10th Century Woman
Yorks Tong Actor
Kinya Tsuruyama The Book of Secrets
Martin Tukker The Book of the Idiot
Terence Tsin Chung Tung Actor
Kaoru Ueda Model
Hiroko Uno 10th Century Woman
François Van Den Bergen Book of Seducer
Lynne Frances Wachendorfer Actor
Paul Wan Actor
Rick Waney The Book of Silence
Tien Sing Wang Intruder
Wu Wei The Book of Old Age
C.S. Wong Actor
Tony Man Kit Wong Actor
Akiko Yokotani 10th Century Woman
Atsuko Yoshikawa 10th Century Woman
Yoshino Yoshioka Nagiko's Friend

Technical Credits
Peter Greenaway Director,Editor,Screenwriter
Abi Cohen Casting
Brian Eno Score Composer
Terry Glinwood Executive Producer
Nigel Heath Sound/Sound Designer
Hitomi Ishihara Casting
Kees Kasander Producer
Eliza Poklewski Koziell Asst. Director
Martin Margiela Costumes/Costume Designer
Garth Marshall Sound/Sound Designer
Carrie O'Brien Casting
Aimi O. Casting
Paul Smith Costumes/Costume Designer
Jean-Louis Piel Executive Producer
Andree Putman Production Designer
Liora Reich Casting
Koji Tatsuno Costumes/Costume Designer
Wilbert van Dorp Production Designer
Dien van Straalen Costumes/Costume Designer
Sacha Vierny Cinematographer
Emi Wada Costumes/Costume Designer,Production Designer
Denis Wigman Executive Producer
Chris Wyatt Editor

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Pillow Book
1. Beginnings [13:34]
2. My Own Pillow Book [10:00]
3. Marriage [11:46]
4. A Model Life [9:36]
5. Write On Me [10:48]
6. The Publisher's Lover [7:21]
7. I Have A Plan [1:29]
8. Like Romeo And Juliet [8:00]
9. The Second Fire [12:24]
10. Thirteen Books [10:25]
11. The Betrayed [15:16]
12. Credits [13:08]


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Pillow Book 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie is a visual masterpiece. Captivating. Stunning. Same director as The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite films & I just couldn't resist the director's sensual, erotic & his beautiful cinematography...'touching' each scence softly like a gentle lover. I fell in love with this work of art the first time I saw it in VHS format. I have been anticipating the DVD to come out & gladly, my wait has paid off! Definitely a must see or better yet, get a copy for longer viewing pleasure! ;o)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago