The Pillow Book VHS
Peter Greenaway (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, Drowning by Numbers) continues to delight and disturb us with his talent for combining storytelling with optic artistry. The Pillow Book is divided into 10 chapters (consistent with Greenaway's love of numbers and lists) and is shot to be viewed like a book, complete with tantalizing illustrations and footnotes (subtitles) and using television's "screen-in-screen" technology. As a child in Japan, Nagiko's father celebrates her birthday retelling the Japanese creation myth and writing on her flesh in beautiful calligraphy, while her aunt reads a list of "beautiful things" from a 10th-century pillow book. As she gets older, Nagiko (Vivian Wu) looks for a lover with calligraphy skills to continue the annual ritual. She is initially thrilled when she encounters Jerome (Ewan McGregor), a bisexual translator who can speak and write several languages, but soon realizes that although he is a magnificent lover, his penmanship is less than acceptable. When Nagiko dismisses the enamored Jerome, he suggests she use his flesh as the pages which to present her own pillow book. The film, complete with a musical score as international as the languages used in the narration, is visually hypnotic and truly an immense "work of art." --Michele Goodson
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
While I appreciate the past necessities of tweaking things to work on the older smaller screens (when this came out originally on DVD), now that most of us have larger-sized and wider-aspect flatscreens, it would be more appropriate - and desirous - for there to be a bluray version that brings back the wondrous use of space and aspect utilized in the original film's theatrical release. Additionally, it would be greatly instructive to hear what Mr. G might have to say about why he created this film to look and feel the way it does: what were his motivations for film/video, aspect ratio, image placement, etc.
"The Pillow Book" takes a fascinating, and revealing, look at culture, art, and of course literature, and how they interplay with our more primal, instinctual urges; and ultimately what all of it says about being human and our struggle for meaning as well as happiness. A "must-have" for any serious film aficionado/collector!
First, Peter Greenaway has the eyes of a visual artist. His attention to the odd detail is incredible and subtle. I found the film to be full of images that went beyond the story line and pentrated at an unconscious emotional level. The act of exploring the human body with a caligraphy brush, composing stories, poems, novels, autobiography is certainly a compelling image and concept. Isn't our life written on our bodies? Don't we read the bodies of those with whom we are intimate? Don't we in some way brand or stain the bodies of those whom we love and in turn are we not burned and molded by those who love us? From the corpses of a young lover wrapped in indigo paper, to baths in ancient urns, the an army of handsome Japanese nude men covered in caligraphy, the film floods you with images. The storyline, the text, is only part of the story - a point I wish that those who did not like this film would recognize.
Second, it is unique storytelling. Nagiko, a Japanese girl, adores here novelist father. She comes to understand however that he must submit to sodomy with his homosexual publisher to remain in print and prosperous. Nagiko marries and becomes an unhappy young bride. She runs away from her husband and Japan to Hong Kong where she eventually becomes a fashion model. She explores the concept of writing on the human body as her art form as she moves from lover to lover, experience to experience. She meets a handsome European translator, Jerome, and becomes fascinated with him once she learns he is the publisher's lover also. She seduces him and then gradually develops a plot of revenge against the publisher. Yet, she has met her sexual, artistic, intellectual, aethitic match in Jerome and they both know that their relationship is rare. She and Jerome plot to have her story read by the publisher while he is making love to Jerome and sees the caligraphy on Jerome's body. But this plot backfires terribly as Nagiko finds she can not bear the jealousy and she rejects Jerome. Jerome, the romantic, kills himself with a drug overdose. The publisher uncovers Jerome's body and has his skin turned into parchment so he can retain his lover in book form. Nagiko learns of this and wants the book, for Jerome's skin is her medium. Her revenge includes writing a series of tales of desire and experince on the bodies of handsome Japanese nude young men whom she sends to the publisher for publication. The publisher is captivated by the beauty of the work and the men and begins to publish her novels and poems. Yet in the end, Nagiko sends an assassin with the final chapter, the last of 12 books, who kills the publisher and retrieves the book composed of Jerome's skin. I dare you to find a more odd story than this!
This visual feast of the unconscious is not for everyone. It is only somewhat linear with flashbacks to Nagiko's childhood and sections from the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon integrated throughout the film. Yet, the character of Nagiko, her cognitive association of writing with the body, made far more sense than many performance and conceptual artists in the art magazines.
I was left with one haunting line, spoken by the 10th century courtesan who wrote the original pillow book in the title who says at the end: "I have loved two things, literature and the body."
Most recent customer reviews
Rating = **
Director: Peter Greenaway
Producers: Kees Kasander et al.Read more