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The Pillow Book (1997)

tomatometer

67

Average Rating: 6.5/10
Critic Reviews: 9
Fresh: 6 | Rotten: 3

No consensus yet.

audience

81

liked it
Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 13,011

My Rating

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

Dec 15, 1998

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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All Critics (37) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (24) | Rotten (12) | DVD (5)

At first daunting but ultimately awesomely impressive and beautiful.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop 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."

April 9, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop 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.

January 22, 2002 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop 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.

February 14, 2001 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

''The Pillow Book'' finds the filmmaker at his most atypically seductive, creating a spellbinding web of cruel elegance and intricate gamesmanship, exploring the exotic, haunting beauty of the bizarre.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Yawn.

March 13, 2006
ColeSmithey.com

Never less than mesmerizing, even when you're not exactly sure what exactly Greenaway is trying to say.

December 5, 2004 Full Review Source: TheMovieReport.com
TheMovieReport.com

Both exhilarating and exhausting, The Pillow Book is undeniably bold, sometimes beautiful, filmmaking.

August 21, 2003 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

The association of writing and eroticism. Burning books. A spectacularly gruesome death and a desecrated corpse. It's a Peter Greenaway picture all right--as stunning and inscrutable as ever.

June 5, 2002 Full Review Source: Boxoffice Magazine
Boxoffice Magazine

The interplay of the metaphoric and the literal, of artistic form and arbitrary symmetry, might still amuse Peter Greenaway, but for most of the rest of us the game is getting a little old.

March 24, 2002 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

Manages to carry on Peter Greenaway's tradition of cherishing both the erotic and the exotic.

February 27, 2002 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

Greenaway's characters may work fine as painting surfaces, but they have no interior life or independence that would arouse passion, and the director practically handles their couplings with tongs.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Nashville Scene
Nashville Scene

Occasionally moving, always pretty, it also veers into pretentiousness, especially when it comes to Nagiko's aphoristic writing (for instance, "Closed eyes cannot read").

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Philadelphia City Paper
Philadelphia City Paper

What it is is breathtaking moviemaking. Against all odds, it works, magically, transcendentally, perfectly.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

This one's pure Greenaway.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Penises come in all shapes and sizes, and such is the preponderance of penises on parade in The Pillow Book that sitting through it feels like watching Multiplicity with Harvey Keitel in the lead.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: rec.arts.movies.reviews
rec.arts.movies.reviews

Audience Reviews for The Pillow Book

Great film, Peter Greenaway direction is beautiful! This is the first film were Hollywood took note of the young Ewan McGregor too but it's Vivian Wu who steals the show.

*re-review*
I just watched this again after 15 years and have completely changed my mind. I guess I was young and impressionable back in 1996 or maybe I've turned into a grumpy old man - either way, what I found to be beautiful and exciting cinema I know find to be boring and pretentious theatre. It's still beautiful visually and the idea is still great, it's just Greenaway is far too indulgent and up his own bottom. Vivian Wu steals the show? What the hell was I thinking?

Down from 4 stars to just 2.
May 1, 2012
SirPant

Super Reviewer

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.
May 26, 2011
366weirdmovies
Greg S

Super Reviewer

Well it was different that's for sure.
April 22, 2008
jjnxn
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.
April 17, 2008
DragonEyeMorrison
Tsubaki Sanjuro

Super Reviewer

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

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