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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Written on flesh
Watching this Blu-Ray i the first time I have seen this film. In a sense, it's 'typical' Greenaway. Each shot is beautifully composed (less formally than some other films) but it also draws from his 1990s video works, such as Peter Greenaway's A TV Dante: The Inferno Cantos I-VIII [DVD] in the way it has frame-within-a-frame effects. Despite its unconventional appearance,...
Published on 10 May 2011 by S. Day

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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous film, terrible edition
I didn't check the aspect ratio (4:3!) when I bought the DVD. I had it already on tape, and the copy kept the original ratio. How can anybody do such a stupid thing as cutting off the edges of a film that is all about frames and pictorical composition? The film, originally, is a masterpiece.
Published on 9 Aug 2005 by Magdalena Costa Valles


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Written on flesh, 10 May 2011
By 
S. Day (Ewell, UK) - See all my reviews
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Watching this Blu-Ray i the first time I have seen this film. In a sense, it's 'typical' Greenaway. Each shot is beautifully composed (less formally than some other films) but it also draws from his 1990s video works, such as Peter Greenaway's A TV Dante: The Inferno Cantos I-VIII [DVD] in the way it has frame-within-a-frame effects. Despite its unconventional appearance, the plot is linear and pretty simple to follow.

The film itself deals with obsession, calligraphy, nakedness, revenge and poetry. It is part in Japanese (with subtitles) and part English. Most of the enjoyment for me came in the dazzlingly creative way the story was told rather than the story itself, and perhaps that is the 'message' here.

The only extras on the disc are the theatrical trailer (in poor quality) and a photo gallery.

Previous DVDs have sparked controversy over their aspect ratios. While IMDB lists this film as 1.75:1, it is presented here in 1.33:1 (4:3). This is an unusual format for the cinema these days, but nothing appeared to be cropped. Images in the film itself vary from widescreen to full frame, and are often overlaid meaning that transferring in anything other than 1.33:1 would not be feasible. (Darwin is also in variable aspect ratio, as it is panned and scanned.) I suspect this film was shot on film (Super 35) then edited on video, which at that time would have been in 1.33:1. Having said that, the trailer is in 1.75:1.

Picture quality is good but not amazing, again probably a symptom of the mid-90s video technology used in production.

Overall, this is a feast for the eyes and a must for anyone with an interest in Greenaway. If the aspect ratio is wrong, it is at least not a significant hindrance to enjoyment.
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous film, terrible edition, 9 Aug 2005
By 
Magdalena Costa Valles "M.C." (Barcelona, Spain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Pillow Book [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
I didn't check the aspect ratio (4:3!) when I bought the DVD. I had it already on tape, and the copy kept the original ratio. How can anybody do such a stupid thing as cutting off the edges of a film that is all about frames and pictorical composition? The film, originally, is a masterpiece.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Finely Created Work of Art, 14 Nov 2002
By 
Eric Anderson (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Pillow Book [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
I happen to be a great admirer of the controversial Mr Greenaway. I think his direction in film is bold and produces powerful results. The Pillow Book is a great example of this talent. It is an amazing combination of his narrative technique, experimental explorations and talent for finding compelling stories. The images are beautiful, especially the shot of Vivian Wu standing in the rain covered with writing on her flesh which slowly melts away. Her character is not that complex, but the action of the story is sufficient to carry her along throughout the tale as she fights for independence and a suitable form of artistic expression. Essentially the story is about the fetishisation of books and sex. These things are enough to make a great movie in my mind. Nagiko is a girl who goes through a ritual where her father writes on her back on her birthday as he tells her of a myth. After burning her way out of a suffocating marriage, she grows up to become a radical artist writing on bodies and searching for a man who can replace her father in the birthday tradition. She meets a talented man named Jerome who she falls in love with, but is eventually sacrificed to her father's old enemy. In the course of the narrative she writes her own Pillow Book on a series of men. It culminates in a gruesome act of jealousy and revenge (a notion not foreign to Greenaway's narratives).
Some emotionally intense scenes are made particularly powerful with the screen-in-screen shots because it shows at one time the levels between thought and action, self-perception and actual action. This is a new style for Greenaway that works tremendously well in this movie because it fits so perfectly with the egotism and self-obsession of the characters involved. The movie as a whole is a powerful evocation of a great Japanese classic. I highly recommend this movie who is in the mood to watch something eccentric, visually moving and stunningly beautiful.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic DVD, but loses a lot from theatrical presentation, 14 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Pillow Book [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
This is a fantastic DVD, the sounds and picture quality are great. However, the movie contains many pictures within pictures (like windows on a computer screen) that looked fantastic on the big screen but many of these smaller pictures have been awkwardly cut off for the DVD version. It's a shame. The movie is still great and worth watching. And Greenaway outdoes himself for coming up with something even creepier than the 'buffet' scene from Thief, Cook, Wife and her Lover.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Subtitles are all wrong, 12 Jan 2013
This review is from: The Pillow Book - DVD (DVD)
The images are very beautiful. However, there is a real problem with the subtitles. Greenaway was very involved in the creation of the subtitles for this film: he used a specific font and the subtitles were supposed to be incorporated in the image, at particular places and moments. But I was very shoked to see that in this DVD, Greenaways' subtitles had been simply erased and replaced with classic subtitles, normal font, etc. I think it's a shame; it is a betrayal of the director's views.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of Greenaway's best., 17 July 2011
By 
pianophile (Minneapolis, MN United States) - See all my reviews
This film has cried out for release on BD, and it's finally here. Great video quality, though I'm not crazy about the pillarboxed picture (I understand why it was used, but still, it just seems... wrong.)

Highly recommended disc for any PG fan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Arty movie doesn't make a lot of sense, but is sort of watchable, 6 Oct 2008
By 
Andres C. Salama (Buenos Aires, Argentina) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Pillow Book [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
Ewan McGregor, playing an English translator in Hong Kong, has a love affair with a Japanese woman with a very curious fetish: writing in fine Japanese calligraphy the body of her lovers. Sex and literature can be a good combination, but not if the chef is Peter Greenaway (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover). The movie is very silly, but is sort of watchable (the obvious beauty of Vivian Wu, who plays the Japanese lover and appears naked several times - as does McGregor - certainly helps). This was the last film of Greenaway to have some sort of commercial impact. After that, he made the awful 8 1/2 Women and then retreated to the art world (where he probably feels more comfortable).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Artistic, but often too cluttered with ideas., 24 Jan 2008
By 
@GeekZilla9000 "I am completely operational a... (Doncaster, Yorkshire, UK.) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Pillow Book [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
A lot of people have commented (not just here) about the aspect ratio of this DVD, 4:3?!

It does seem a shame, unless it was done for artistic reasons...

...The film makes use of many `picture in picture' scenes, where you'll see a scene playing within a box in another scene. Maybe the 4:3 aspect ratio is to ensure that these were viewed with good fidelity to the original.

The subject of the film isn't an easy one to follow, but if you stick with it then it stands a good chance of charming you over. The 18 certificate is mainly a reaction to the nudity and sex in the film. The sex though, isn't explicit, and the nudity is done in a beautiful way and is in no way `sexualised'. The film has many surprises, and even though you know Ewan McGregor is in it, it still takes you back when such a familiar face (and voice) appears in a film which often feels far distanced from real life.

The `surprise' of Ewan McGregor is essential for this film - he brings with him an energy which lacks, up to his arrival. The chemistry between Jerome (McGregor) and Nagiko (Viv Wu) crackles on screen and if it weren't for this then the film would be lacklustre.

The film deals with interesting themes, such as the feeling of being an outsider when surrounded by a culture different to the one you were brought up in. It looks at the love of literature combined with physical pleasure. But the clever use of visuals sometimes takes away from the essence of the film so that you're left trying to watch several scenes at once and don't get the full effect of either - they're meant to complement, but they often cloud.

In a nutshell: This is a great film dogged with two many clever ideas. It felt disjointed for me, I never felt as absorbed as I could have been. The acting was great, the internet seems to have lots of sites which sensationalise the fact that you see Ewan McGregors penis a fair old bit, but the film manages this brilliantly and it always seems natural - you don't get shocked by McGregor's ol'fella. This is worth a watch, but it won't be a prized member of my DVD collection.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Greenaway to remember!, 10 Mar 2010
This review is from: The Pillow Book [DVD] [1996] (DVD)
I purchased this DVD because I was kind of curious to see what came out of a Greenaway/McGregor collaboration. Well, it's a piece of art - as always when it's signed Greenaway. The Pillow Book is not quite as hard to swallow as other Greenaway movies I've seen, but it's not for the faint-hearted either. Some of the images are difficult to take - not because of nudity or other issues, but simply because of what they create in the spectator's head. But then again, that's something I like about Greenaway.

The film is very well cast for all the characters. Vivian Wu is excellent, so are Oida and Ogata. McGregor is eye-candy as usual, but gives his best performance here in a scene where you can only hear him from the off. There was so much passion and emotion in that particular moment of "Jerome's" suffering that I could hardly hold back the tears.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Totally indulgent director, non-existent plot, 22 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Pillow Book - DVD (DVD)
Chose this rating because they don't go any lower. Felt the director failed to remember there is an audience that he needs to communicate with, and brushstrokes across a body will only titilate for one scene. Not even the normally ignitable Ewan McGregor could light up this one. Avoid at all costs.
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