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directed by Peter Greenaway
Netherlands/UK/France/Luxembourg 1996

 

"I am certain that there are two things in life which are dependable: the delights of the flesh, and the delights of literature. I have had the good fortune to enjoy them both equally," said Sei Shōnagon in The Pillow Book, a book of observations, lists, and "things that make the heart beat faster" written in the tenth century in the court of Empress Consort Teishi. A certain "concatenations of sex and text" forms the basis of Peter Greenaway's museum installation-ready multi-media work THE PILLOW BOOK. At the age of four, Nagiko (Vivian Wu, THE LAST EMPEROR) witnessed her calligrapher father (Ken Ogata, VENGEANCE IS MINE) and his publisher (Yoshi Oida) in a compromising position; the nature of which (both physical and the situational context) she would not understand until years later. This event combined with her father's practice of celebrating her birthday by inscribing her name on her face and his own on the back of her neck (an enactment of the story of God creating humanity as clay dolls, naming them, and signing the ones that met with approval to bring them to life) and her Chinese mother's nightly reading to her of The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon lead her years later to seek out lovers who reminded her of "the pleasures of calligraphy." Escaping her marriage from a boorish sportsman (Ken Mitsuishi, AUDITION) and fleeing to Hong Kong - where she becomes a fashion model - her search is frustrated by the inability to find a partner who is both a brilliant artist and good lover (as well as her own uncertainty about which quality she actually favors).

Nagiko dismisses translator Jerome (Ewan McGregor, SHALLOW GRAVE - who regales her with the stories of books he has yet to write - as a "scribbler" but is spurned by his request that she teach him to use his body "like the pages of a book" to try a hand at being both pen and paper. When Hoki (Yutaka Honda), a photographer suffering from his obsession for her since she finds his flesh unsatisfactory for writing, encourages her to send her writing to a publisher, she is dispirited when the work (photographs of her writings on her own body and those of strangers) is judged as "not worth the paper it is printed on." When discovers that the publisher was her father's publisher, and that his new lover is Jerome, she seduces the younger man and manipulates him into offering up his body as messenger onto which she will inscribe thirteen books for "the publisher that rejected you but who loves me" (a sacrifice not without pleasure for him). She writes on him the first book "The Book of the Agenda" and the plan proves successful; but Nagiko grows jealous when Jerome does not return to her and "writes" the next four books on a series of increasingly vulgar strangers with increasingly bitter content; and her mission to avenge her father's memory takes a different turn when the publisher desecrates her lover in more ways than one.

Eric Cotenas

Posters

Theatrical Release: 6 June 1997 (USA)

Reviews                                                                   More Reviews                                                                 DVD Reviews

 

Comparison:

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Screen Caps!

1) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT

2) Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Covers

 

   

 

 

 

Distribution

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Region 1 - NTSC

Film Movement
Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:00:56 (4% PAL speedup) 2:06:29.582
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.8 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Disc Size: 38,016,618,130 bytes

Feature Size: 34,430,730,240 bytes

Total Bitrate: 30.00 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG4 - AVC

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

 

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

 

Bitrate:

 

Film Movement Blu-ray

 

Audio Japanese/Chinese/English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

Subtitles English (burnt-in) English (burnt-in)
Features Release Information:
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
 Canadian Theatrical Trailer (4:3; 1:40)

DVD Release Date: 15 December 2008
Amaray

Chapters 28
 

Release Information:
Studio: Film Movement

Aspect Ratio:- 1.33:1

Disc Size: 38,016,618,130 bytes

Feature Size: 34,430,730,240 bytes

Total Bitrate: 30.00 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG4 - AVC

 

Edition Details:
 Audio Commentary by director Peter Greenaway (38:13)
 Theatrical Trailer (2:05)
 Film Movement Trailers
 Liner Notes Booklet by Film Comment's Nicolas Rapold
 

Blu-ray Release Date: June 9th, 2015
Standard
Blu-ray Case

Chapters 12

 

 

 

Comments

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray June 15': Film Movement's 1080P transfer of Peter Greenaway's The Pillow Book remains, like the DVD, transferred in 1.33:1 but the image quality is a massive improvement over the artifact-ridden and interlaced DVD. Colors, notably skin-tones, alter, cool and tighten as does the detail rise beyond the softness of the SD. There is even some depth in the color sequences. This is dual-layered with a very high bitrate and I expect as good as the source will allow. It looks decent enough in-motion with no speckles or damage and I'd have to say that fans should be very pleased in regards to comparing it to the lackluster DVD that did not do The Pillow Book's visuals justice at all.

Audio is lossless via a linear PCM track. There is a real cornucopia of music selections in The Pillow Book from Buddhist Lamas & Monks, traditional Japanese to U2 and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It sounds clean - but lacking depth - once again, significantly superior to the DVD. There are burned-in subtitles (see sample below) of a more standard font than the SD.

Greenaway's new commentary actually only accompanies the first thirty-eight minutes of the film. He traces the origins of the project in his fascination with calligraphy and Eastern art in contrast to Western art's distinction between text and image. Although he mounted it as a homage to his own interest in Japanese culture, he feels that it met with a mixed reception from Japanese audiences because of critical fixation on his errors regarding the cultural minutia. He also discusses the post-production in Japan and his own admiration for the digital revolution (and his desire to remake the film using all digital technology). Besides the film's trailer and trailers for other Film Movement titles, the release also includes a short but handsomely-illustrated booklet by Film Comment's Nicolas Rapold on the film.

The director's fans should snap this up - another unique, and visually memorable film from Greenaway. Recommended!

 - Eric Cotenas and Gary Tooze

 


Menus
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC
 

Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray


 CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Screen Captures

1) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Sony Pictures Home Entertainment - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Film Movement - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


  

Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Blu-ray

 
Box Covers

 

   

 

 

 

Distribution

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Region 1 - NTSC

Film Movement
Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 




 

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