The Pillow Book (1997) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Pillow Book (1997)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Pillow Book Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

Peter Greenaway directed this elliptical and visually intricate tale of the far side of erotic and intellectual attraction. As a girl, Nagiko would receive a special gift each year from her father: a calligrapher (Ken Ogata) who would carefully paint a poem on her face, as her aunt (Hideko Yoshida) read aloud from The Pillow Book, a classic Japanese text on the art of love. As Nagiko (Vivian Wu) reached adulthood, her father insisted on putting a stop to this ritual, and he persuaded her to marry the nephew of his publisher (Ken Mitsuishi). But Nagiko is not satisfied with her husband, and after finding success as a model, she seeks a lover who will indulge her fondness for literature by writing verse on her naked body. In time, she finds happiness with a British expatriate named Jerome (Ewan McGregor), who persuades her to use his body as paper for her poetry, but the interference of her father's publisher (Yoshi Oida) gives their relationship a tragic turn. Greenaway deliberately mistranslated some of the French and Japanese dialogue for The Pillow Book, hoping that the occasionally fractured language would give the film a "Tower of Babel" quality.more
Rating: NC-17
Genre: Drama, Art House & International, Special Interest, Cult Movies
Directed By:
Written By: Sei Shonagon, Peter Greenaway
In Theaters:
On DVD: Dec 15, 1998
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


Vivian Wu
as Nagiko
Ken Ogata
as The Father
Yoshi Oida
as The Publisher
Hideko Yoshida
as The Aunt / The Maid
Judy Ongg
as The Mother
Ken Mitsuishi
as The Husband
Barbara Lott
as Jerome's Mother
Miwako Kawai
as Young Nagiko
Chizuru Ohnishi
as Young Nagiko
Shiho Takamatsu
as Young Nagiko
Aki Ishimaru
as Young Nagiko
Hisashi Hidaka
as Calligrapher
Dehong Chen
as Calligrapher
Akihiro Nishida
as Calligrapher
Kentaro Matsuo
as Calligrapher
Chau Lam
as Intruder
Nguyen Duc Nhan
as Calligrapher
Augusto Aristotle
as Calligrapher
Roger To Thanh Hien
as Calligrapher
Chris Bearne
as Calligrapher
Wichert Dromkert
as The Book of the Inno...
Martin Tukker
as The Book of the Idio...
Wu Wei
as The Book of Old Age
Tom Kane
as The Book of the Exhi...
Kheim Lam
as The Book of the Sedu...
Daishi Hori
as The Book of Youth
Kinya Tsuruyama
as The Book of Secrets
Eiichi Tanaka
as The Book of the Betr...
Rick Waney
as The Book of Silence
Masaru Matsuda
as The Book of Birth & ...
Hidashi Hidaka
as Calligrapher
Wataru Murofushi
as The Book of the Dead
Ryuko Azuma
as Grandmother
Yoshihiko Nagata
as Husband's Friend
Atsushi Miura
as Husband's Friend
Kazushi Ishimaru
as Baby Nagiko
Hikari Abe
as Nagiko's Baby
Ai Kanafuji
as Nagiko's Friend
Yoshino Yoshioka
as Nagiko's Friend
Yuki Nou
as Nagiko's Friend
Masami Nishio
as Nagiko's Friend
Satomi Kimura
as Nagiko's Friend
Michiko Matsuo
as Nagiko's Friend
Kintaro Murayama
as Nagiko's Friend
as Model
as Model
Seizo H. Inoue
as 10th Century Man
Yoshihiro Kawai
as 10th Century Man
Munenari Takeshima
as 10th Century Man
Toshio Kimura
as 10th Century Man
Masakazu Takemura
as 10th Century Man
Hiroshi Nakajima
as 10th Century Man
Kageyoshi Shirakata
as 10th Century Man
Takashi Miyake
as 10th Century Man
Hiroko Uno
as 10th Century Woman
Ham-Chau Luong
as Calligrapher
Yuko Shimomura
as 10th Century Woman
Kana Haraguchi
as 10th Century Woman
Yuri Inoue
as 10th Century Woman
Makiko Shoji
as 10th Century Woman
Miwako Namie
as 10th Century Woman
Atsuko Nakamura
as 10th Century Woman
Tokiko Horiike
as 10th Century Woman
Akiko Yokotani
as 10th Century Woman
Yasuko Ogawa
as 10th Century Woman
Atsuko Yoshikawa
as 10th Century Woman
Mariko Ajimoto
as 10th Century Woman
Hiromi Tani
as 10th Century Woman
Fukue Kitaoka
as 10th Century Woman
Jim-Adhi Limas
as Man in Lift
Miho Tanaka
as Model Friend in Café...
Fabienne De Marco
as Model Friend in Café...
Tania De Jaeger
as Model Friend in Café...
Lu Jinhua
as Wife of Calligrapher
See Wah Leung
as Intruder
as Intruder
Kumi Komino
as Elderly Secretary
Yuki Hayashi
as Young Female Secreta...
Maskai Taketani
as Young Male Secretary
Mr. Lo
as Old Servant
Mrs. Lo
as Servant's Wife
See Yan Leung
as Bookshop Manager
François Van Den Ber...
as Book of Seducer
Hiriko Uno
as 10th Century Woman
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Pillow Book

Critic Reviews for The Pillow Book

All Critics (37) | Top Critics (9)

At first daunting but ultimately awesomely impressive and beautiful.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

A very intimate, sensual film, and a torrid, lurid melodrama, full of passion, jealousy, hatred and revenge.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

A seductive and elegant story that combines a millennium of Japanese art and fetishes with the story of a neurotic modern woman who tells a lover: "Treat me like the pages of a book."

Full Review… | April 9, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Greenaway, whose mind is one of the most impressive, complicated organs that ever sat on the shoulders of a filmmaker, seems to be playing connect the dots to himself, almost dumbing himself down to be commercial.

Full Review… | January 22, 2002
Washington Post
Top Critic

Despite its arresting visual style, its wave after wave of creative and hypnotic images, "The Pillow Book," as its name hints, slowly but inexorably leads to sleep.

Full Review… | February 14, 2001
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Such Greenaway films as "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover," "Prospero's Books" and now this make one wonder if they're really as deep as they pretend to be. Perhaps, as his actors, this emperor has no clothes.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Pillow Book


A beautiful woman is obsessed with inking characters on human flesh, making herself and her lovers into living books. Gorgeous and sensual, with layered images and pictures framed inside of other pictures. Greenaway's painterly picture is a loving tribute both to calligraphy and to the nude human form, and the movie would be a classic if only there was a story attached to the sumptuous images.

Greg S

Super Reviewer

Well it was different that's for sure.

jay nixon

Super Reviewer


Everytime i try to get into this film i encounter a solid wall that won't let me pass. Vivian Wu should be in more movies, naked if possible.

Tsubaki Sanjuro

Super Reviewer

The Pillow Book Quotes

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