The Pillow Book

June 6th, 1997


The Pillow Book

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Still of Ewan McGregor in The Pillow Book

As a young girl in Japan, Nagiko's father paints characters on her face, and her aunt reads to her from "The Pillow Book"...

Release Year: 1996

Rating: 6.5/10 (7,781 voted)

Critic's Score: 64/100

Director: Peter Greenaway

Stars: Vivian Wu, Ewan McGregor, Yoshi Oida

As a young girl in Japan, Nagiko's father paints characters on her face, and her aunt reads to her from "The Pillow Book", the diary of a 10th-century lady-in-waiting. Nagiko grows up, obsessed with books, papers, and writing on bodies, and her sexual odyssey (and the creation of her own Pillow Book) is a "parfait mélange" of classical Japanese, modern Chinese, and Western film images.

Writers: Sei Shonagon, Peter Greenaway

Vivian Wu - Nagiko
Yoshi Oida - The Publisher
Ken Ogata - The Father
Hideko Yoshida - The Aunt / The Maid
Ewan McGregor - Jerome
Judy Ongg - The Mother
Ken Mitsuishi - The Husband
Yutaka Honda - Hoki
Barbara Lott - Jerome's Mother
Miwako Kawai - Young Nagiko
Lynne Langdon - Jerome's sister (as Lynne Frances Wachendorfer)
Chizuru Ohnishi - Young Nagiko
Shiho Takamatsu - Young Nagiko
Aki Ishimaru - Young Nagiko
Hisashi Hidaka - Calligrapher

Taglines: Things that make the heart beat faster.

Release Date: 6 June 1997

Filming Locations: Hong Kong, China

Opening Weekend: $105,922 (USA) (8 June 1997) (7 Screens)

Gross: $2,293,037 (USA) (17 August 1997)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Much of the film is in Japanese, and some of the English subtitles appear to be intentionally incorrect or missing, in the spirit of "language play" or "the Tower of Babel". (Confirmed by director Peter Greenaway at a talk at the San Francisco Film Festival.)

Boom mic visible: Mike visible during wide shot when Nagiko kneels and Jerome signs his name on her back. 01:03:59 into the film on PAL DVDs.

Nagiko: His writing - in so many languages - made me a sign-post pointing east, west, north and south. I had shoes in German, stockings in French, gloves in Hebrew, a hat with a veil in Italian. He only kept me naked where I was most accustomed to wearing clothes.

User Review



God, what words to use when trying to describe this film!!! Exotic, erotic??? Those are obvious choices that pop right up. Quite a bit of this film is spoken in Japanese, and I usually hate films with subtitles, yet I loved THE PILLOW BOOK. It is sensual, delicate and beautifully executed. The music is mysterious and sexy. The way it is filmed is pure art, like the unfolding of the pages of the book it's about. Nagiko (Vivian Wu) is trying to publish a book written in caligraphy but is rejected. Looking for someone with perfect skin, she decides to use the method of writing her caligraphy onto human skin the way her father did when she was a girl. There is plenty of naked Ewan McGregor to behold, and he gives a fine...ahem...acting performance also!!! Of course this film won't appeal to just anyone, but if you're in the mood for a visually striking, colorful, cultural piece of art film, try this one out.


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