5 October 2005 | AZINDN
Words Made Flesh
The Pillow Book is a rare film that transcends limitations of film and text in a unique handling by auteur Peter Greenaway. Based loosely on the tenth century writings of the imperial court observer, Sei Shonagon, Greenaway brings to the screen a rich visual amalgam that relies on stunning settings, the physical beauty of actors Vivian Wu and Ewan McGregor, and the joy of ancient and modern systems of writing that are the calligraphic arts.
Greenaway's penchant for incorporating art, numbers, books, and architecture in a filmic medium ensure those who enjoy his style will not be disappointed. As a young child, Wu's character has celebrated her birthday's by having her father write the story of creation on her face in a family ritual celebration. However, with adulthood and marriage, her spouse is neither interested nor willing to continue her tradition. Frustrated at her inability to find a lover who is a good calligrapher, or a calligrapher who is a good lover, Wu finally meets a bi-sexual translator, Jerome (McGregor) who offers himself to Wu as a living surface for her erotic creativity. Inspired by the opportunity to obtain revenge on the publisher who blackmailed her father and is Jerome's lover, Wu's character, Nagiko creates the ultimate love poem illuminated in red, gold and black characters and delivered to the publisher on the naked body of Jerome.
The Pillow Book is adult eroticism at it's most sensuous and visual best. It is a story that revels in the binaries of the profane and grotesque, yet delights the eye with Greenaway's ability to translate a vision of love and horror into a singular statement of lush physical beauty and passionate sexuality.