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The Pillow Book

Released Jun 6, 1996 2h 3m Romance List
68% Tomatometer 56 Reviews 80% Audience Score 10,000+ Ratings
A Japanese model (Vivian Wu) who likes lovers to adorn her body with calligraphy falls for an erotic Englishman (Ewan McGregor). Read More Read Less
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The Pillow Book

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Critics Consensus

The Pillow Book is undeniably sensual and visually ravishing, but the film's narrative lacks the hypnotic pull of its imagery.

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Critics Reviews

View All (56) Critics Reviews
Lisa Alspector Chicago Reader One of the most accomplished chapters in Peter Greenaway's quest to turn movies into books, this may be the writer-director's metaphorical autobiography. May 2, 2016 Full Review Richard Corliss TIME Magazine In The Pillow Book, text and texture meet so exquisitely. Sex is a visual art, Greenaway says, and writing is a matter of life and death. May 2, 2016 Full Review Jami Bernard New York Daily News It is exciting that in an age of mass book signings and disrespect for literature, Greenaway is able to sexualize the author's signature as it sweeps up a woman's neck. Rated: 3/4 May 2, 2016 Full Review Justine Smith Vague Visages As formally challenging as The Pillow Book may be, it romantically creates a love affair unbound by its physical limits, connecting it to past and present through art and literature. Jun 6, 2024 Full Review Michael Atkinson Spin Greenaway makes movies like no other human being, and The Pillow Book is rarely satisfied with a single image. It uses overlapping subframes, trace images, and hieroglyphs, dissolving in and out of view like a picture-in-picture TV screen gone lyrical. Dec 27, 2022 Full Review Nicholas Bell IONCINEMA.com As intricately assembled as all of Greenaway's works, and representing one of the last films from famed DoP Sacha Vierney, The Pillow Book is worthy of a revisit, easily existing within its own timeless universe. Rated: 3/5 Oct 27, 2020 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (625) audience reviews
Dave S After watching Peter Greenaway's The Pillow Book, you can't help but get the feeling that Greenaway is speaking a totally different cinematic language or, at the very least, trying to create a new cinematic language. While the plot, characters, and themes presented are all obviously important, it is the visual presentation in The Pillow Book that really stands out – frames within frames, constantly shifting aspect ratios, superimposed images, and more, to the point where it can feel overwhelming at times, despite its undeniable beauty. This is not a movie for all tastes and, strangely enough, might be more appreciated if the film is read about before being viewed, giving the viewer a better chance in understanding what the hell is going on and, more importantly, why the film looks the way it does, which can be a distraction for an unsuspecting audience during a first viewing. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/08/24 Full Review jeanieforever Waiting for this to come out in 3D. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 12/05/23 Full Review Roy M already a Greenaway fan, and a bibliophile to boot, so heavily biased. what surprised me was that this film, by Greenaway standards, had a happy ending. many might find it narrow in interest, or predictable in results, or too slow. but I found it in the Cinderella zone to my interests... just right. not one of Greenaway's great auteur visions, but I liked it. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/09/23 Full Review Audience Member The cinematic/visual style from Greenaway alone makes this so amusing to watch unravel. Almost like silk in cinematic format. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 02/20/23 Full Review Audience Member I loved this movie!! Rated 5 out of 5 stars 05/01/22 Full Review William L A really interesting premise and a plot that gradually grows more interesting as time passes - a publisher that finds himself increasingly obsessed with books that arrive from an unknown source, each painted on a live human body (and that's a gross oversimplification). Despite all that, The Pillow Book is so alienating in its style, feeling massively pretentious and stuffy as it establishes its main character's particular fascination with calligraphy on her own skin, and tying that practice in with her own sexuality; it's unconventional, reimagining aesthetics and texture for the purposes of its unique narrative hook, but if I said I enjoyed any of that experimentation I'd be lying. The plot itself is miles more engaging and well thought-out than the inconsistent, 'different-for-the-sake-of-being-different' visual composition, I wish Greenaway had left some of his auteurism at home and taken a bit of a more traditional approach with this one. The Pillow Book is bizarre; it's easy to imagine why fans will like the more distinctive elements, but they just weren't for me. Props for originality, but not as much for the quality of the experience. (2.5/5) Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 01/16/22 Full Review Read all reviews
The Pillow Book

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Cast & Crew

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Movie Info

Synopsis A Japanese model (Vivian Wu) who likes lovers to adorn her body with calligraphy falls for an erotic Englishman (Ewan McGregor).
Director
Peter Greenaway
Producer
Kees Kasander
Screenwriter
Sei Shonagon, Peter Greenaway
Distributor
Columbia Tristar
Production Co
Delux Productions, Channel Four Films, Kasander Film Company, Alpha Films, Euroimages Fund of the Council of Europe, Woodline Productions, Canal Plus
Genre
Romance
Original Language
English
Release Date (Theaters)
Jun 6, 1996, Original
Release Date (Streaming)
Aug 10, 2016
Box Office (Gross USA)
$2.4M
Runtime
2h 3m
Sound Mix
Dolby, Surround
Aspect Ratio
35mm
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