An experiment in form. Greenaway has always had an interest in cinema as the marriage of many arts: music, literature, visual arts, and theatre especially. Here he conducts his continuing experiment in melding the arts together, this time with a focus on literature. The result is hypnotic.
The film definitely falls within Greenaway's particular genre of sexualized satire. Unlike some of his more successful films, the Pillow Book calls attention too much to its style, feeling more affected than other projects. Delving into cyclical narratives before establishing a firm base. The conceit of also teaching a young child of the pillow book is also painfully distracting and destroyed any chance to engage.
Weeping, weeping, weeping good editing. The frame-in-frame decoupage succeeds beyond expectations for a technique that would be hackneyed in other hands. It enriches the film with textual density, enacting the film's literary relish. "The Pillow Book" has the empathic grip that Greenaway typically lacks, yet it sacrifices nothing: Greenaway is as carnally, numerically, and formally obsessed as ever.
"Most new American movies have a limited shelf life. They're put in the theaters to sink or swim. If they haven't sold in a week or two, they're yanked like stale bread. Greenaway's notion is that his movies stand outside the ordinary distribution channels. You may see them today or in 10 years, as you choose. And when you are ready." - Roger Ebert
This film tells a story in a way I've never seen before. The editing is quite experimental and works well -- often times there are multiple superimposed images moving at once, shifts between color and BW, placecards with text, and the use of still photographic images.
Sensuous and incredible. Greenaway actually tells a story! While his work usually drags, this one remains alive first for the developing romance, then for the unexpectedly lovely "books" device. As always there are many incredible compositions. For some reason, it's also reassuring to know that in some alternative universe there's an elderly gay Japanese man in possession of Ewan McGregor's calligraphy covered pelt.