6.7/10
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97 user 52 critic

The Pillow Book (1996)

Not Rated | | Drama | 6 June 1997 (USA)
Trailer
1:40 | Trailer

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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

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

Ewan McGregor was uncomfortable about his parents watching the film, as he spends much of it being in the nude. His father took it well, and after seeing the film, responded to his son, via fax: "I'm glad you inherited one of my greatest attributes." See more »

Goofs

Mike visible during wide shot when Nagiko kneels and Jerome signs his name on her back. 01:03:59 into the film on PAL DVDs. See more »

Quotes

Nagiko: His writing - in so many languages - made me a sign-post pointing east, west, north and south. I had shoes in German, stockings in French, gloves in Hebrew, a hat with a veil in Italian. He only kept me naked where I was most accustomed to wearing clothes.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Deed Poll (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

La Chinoise
Written by Guesch Patti and Dimitri Tikovoi
Performed by Guesch Patti
Courtesy of EMI Music Publishing France SA
See more »

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User Reviews

Intriguing if one likes Film Art...
9 August 2001 | by MaraCelesSee all my reviews

First of all, let me make one thing clear:

This is not a "movie," not in the normal sense of the word. This is FILM ART. There is a massive difference between the two, and it effects the review of this film.

If viewed as a movie, this film is pretentious, over-visualized, non-plotted...and VERY slow and boring. Nagiko is not a character to be sympathized with (at least not until the very, very, VERY last moments in the film), and all the other characters have no history or background to make them indentifyable by the viewer. Jerome is eye-catching, but not extremely interesting, despite the fine acting of Ewan MacGregor. The fault is not in the actors--it is the script. The viewer is given no reasons to feel anything besides erotisism for the two characters and their plotting together. One is merely thrown into their story, and who can really care for a nit-wit of a girl with a fettish for body art, or a man who is overly vain, sells himself for what he wants, and basically plays games with the people he loves? Alright, there is some sort of interest in the morbid or perverse sense, but beyond that base type of curiousity, there is nothing more involving. In terms of storywritting, this film is absolutely terrible. In many moments, one feels like one is watching glorified porn.

HOWEVER...

As film art, "The Pillow Book" was stunning. The visuals are AMAZING. There is so much beauty in the making of this film, running from the sound of running water to the wonder of the human form. The non-linear aspect of the film gives it a dreamy and surreal quality, as well as a suprising sense of wonder.

There is a sheer erotisism to the film, but it is conveyed (for the most part) in a beautiful and "clean" sort of way. It makes even the minute detail, such as a caligraphy brush or a button, a sensual work of art. Mere "scribbling" becomes astounding and moving--such as the Lord's Prayer written upon Nagiko's body.

The film also includes a cold sense of revenge by way of the Publisher. One can't but feel gleefully satisfied that the man gets what he rightly deserves. And one can almost touch the peace that Nagiko gains for herself in the end.

Now, there are many other messages to be garnered from the film, such as the woman's liberation aspect portrayed, but in this I believe that such musings come almost totally from the mind of the viewer and the associations thereof...many could totally miss such messages in the overwhelming depth of sensuality displayed. Sometimes, a film is just a film; don't give it credit for messages that don't exist. It may be that the director had nothing of the sort in mind. If anything, give it credit for evoking the thoughts from your own mind.

All in all, visually stunning and emotionally evoking...as a work of art. As a story however...it is a dismal failure.

But it is at least worth seeing. Once.


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