The Pillow Book - Blu-ray
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The Pillow Book is a sensual tale of passion, obsession and revenge. Directed by Peter Greenaway and starring Ewan McGregor and Vivian Wu, this is an irresistible arthouse drama about a young woman in search of a lover, who can match her desire for pleasure with her admiration for poetry and calligraphy. After finalising her own erotic diary ('Pillow Book'), which is firmly rejected from the publisher, Nagiko encounters a man who challenges her to write on his naked body. He will then bring her stories back to the publisher. But their plan works all too well...
This Blu-ray edition features a restored version of the film along with the Theatrical Trailer and a Stills Gallery.
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 tantalising 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 realises that although he is a magnificent lover, his penmanship is less than acceptable. When Nagiko dismisses the enamoured 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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Highly recommended disc for any PG fan.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not his best work but still better than most other films that have ever been made.Published 18 months ago by geoff
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... Read morePublished on 22 Jan. 2014 by A CURRIE
This film was 'not at all' what I was expecting. Almost entirely in Japenese language with sub-titles with the odd bit of English thrown in. Read morePublished on 8 Jan. 2013 by Addicted to Amazon!
I am sorry but I cannot find words to describe how boring and ridiculous this film is.
Suffice to say it is utter garbage imho.
A long, pretentious, boring film which will appeal to pretentious pseudo-intellectuals but not to normal people. Read morePublished on 12 Feb. 2012 by P. J. Beasley