6.7/10
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96 user 52 critic

The Pillow Book (1996)

Not Rated | | Drama | 6 June 1997 (USA)
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A woman with a body writing fetish seeks to find a combined lover and calligrapher.

Director:

Peter Greenaway

Writers:

Sei Shonagon (book), Peter Greenaway
5 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Vivian Wu ... Nagiko
Yoshi Oida ... The Publisher
Ken Ogata Ken Ogata ... The Father
Hideko Yoshida Hideko Yoshida ... The Aunt / The Maid
Ewan McGregor ... Jerome
Judy Ongg Judy Ongg ... The Mother
Ken Mitsuishi Ken Mitsuishi ... The Husband
Yutaka Honda Yutaka Honda ... Hoki
Barbara Lott Barbara Lott ... Jerome's Mother
Miwako Kawai Miwako Kawai ... Young Nagiko
Lynne Langdon ... Jerome's sister (as Lynne Frances Wachendorfer)
Chizuru Ohnishi Chizuru Ohnishi ... Young Nagiko
Shiho Takamatsu Shiho Takamatsu ... Young Nagiko
Aki Ishimaru Aki Ishimaru ... Young Nagiko
Hisashi Hidaka Hisashi Hidaka ... Calligrapher
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Storyline

As a young girl in Japan, Nagiko's father paints characters on her face, and her aunt 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. Written by Michael C. Berch <mcb@postmodern.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Things that make the heart beat faster. See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Netherlands | UK | France | Luxembourg

Release Date:

6 June 1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

O Livro de Cabeceira See more »

Filming Locations:

Japan See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$105,922, 8 June 1997, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$2,293,037, 17 August 1997
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby | Dolby SR

Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »

Goofs

Nagiko says early on that her mother taught her Mandarin. Later, she says that she went to Hong Kong to improve the Chinese her mother taught her. However, the majority of people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese, not Mandarin. See more »

Quotes

Nagiko: When God made the first clay model of a human being, He painted in the eyes... the lips... and the sex. And then He painted in each person's name lest the person should ever forget it. If God approved of His creation, He brought the painted clay model into life by signing His own name.
See more »

Connections

References Full Metal Jacket (1987) See more »

Soundtracks

Blonde
Written by Étienne Daho and Christophe Rose
Performed by Guesch Patti
Courtesy of EMI Music Publishing France SA
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User Reviews

 
Words Made Flesh
5 October 2005 | by AZINDNSee all my reviews

The Pillow Book is a rare film that transcends limitations of film and text in a unique handling by auteur Peter Greenaway. Based loosely on the tenth century writings of the imperial court observer, Sei Shonagon, Greenaway brings to the screen a rich visual amalgam that relies on stunning settings, the physical beauty of actors Vivian Wu and Ewan McGregor, and the joy of ancient and modern systems of writing that are the calligraphic arts.

Greenaway's penchant for incorporating art, numbers, books, and architecture in a filmic medium ensure those who enjoy his style will not be disappointed. As a young child, Wu's character has celebrated her birthday's by having her father write the story of creation on her face in a family ritual celebration. However, with adulthood and marriage, her spouse is neither interested nor willing to continue her tradition. Frustrated at her inability to find a lover who is a good calligrapher, or a calligrapher who is a good lover, Wu finally meets a bi-sexual translator, Jerome (McGregor) who offers himself to Wu as a living surface for her erotic creativity. Inspired by the opportunity to obtain revenge on the publisher who blackmailed her father and is Jerome's lover, Wu's character, Nagiko creates the ultimate love poem illuminated in red, gold and black characters and delivered to the publisher on the naked body of Jerome.

The Pillow Book is adult eroticism at it's most sensuous and visual best. It is a story that revels in the binaries of the profane and grotesque, yet delights the eye with Greenaway's ability to translate a vision of love and horror into a singular statement of lush physical beauty and passionate sexuality.


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