Generally favorable reviews - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 20
  2. Negative: 2 out of 20
  1. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Wu is a fine, supple tabula rasa; McGregor (Trainspotting) shows again that he is one of the boldest, most charming young actors.
  2. 89
    Greenaway and his picture-perfect cast weave so many interlacing threads into the story, and so many curious subtexts - stylistic and otherwise - that it sometimes leaves us scratching our heads in wonderment.
  3. 88
    The Pillow Book, starring Vivian Wu, is a seductive and elegant story.
  4. 88
    Greenaway is a unique filmmaker in that he layers images upon one another in a single frame and doesn't require dialogue to make his films arresting. [18 Jul 1997]
  5. Reviewed by: Jay Carr
    The Pillow Book is Peter Greenaway's most stunning and accessible film since "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover." Dense, gorgeous and inexorable - once you give yourself over to its logic - it's a boldly erotic explosion of Asian chic, taken to places no film has gone before. [20 Jun 1997]
  6. The film is best watched as a richly sensual stylistic exercise filled with audaciously beautiful imagery, captivating symmetries and brilliantly facile tricks.
  7. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    Greenaway uses the screen rather like the calligraphers of the story use the body so that the film becomes a kind of visual "pillow book;" a multi-layered series of inscriptions and reflections with almost hypnotic power.
  8. Reviewed by: David Stratton
    It is at first daunting but ultimately awesomely impressive and beautiful.
  9. 75
    The great irony of this film, which is (at least on one level) about the power of writing, is that the words are of secondary importance to the overwhelming visual presentation.
  10. I can't say that I've ever entertained fantasies of writing on someone's body. But Peter Greenaway's The Pillow Book (Cinepix) does, at least, succeed in making it look like an erotic activity.
  11. 63
    With its attractive cast, beguiling score and relatively straightforward narrative, this dark fable of letters and lust is one of Greenaway's most accessible works.
  12. There's as much to draw us in, but far less to put us off. [13 Jun 1997]
  13. Reviewed by: Tim Appelo
    Greenaway's latest, The Pillow Book, might disappoint purists because it is relatively intelligible. [27 Jun 1997]
  14. The Pillow Book sometimes seems like three different movies, each one an eyeful but together too much of a good thing.
  15. At 126 minutes the movie is excruciatingly long, but it is still too short to pack in all the subtle changes in character he means but fails miserably to convey.
  16. 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.
  17. Reviewed by: Desson Howe
    The story, which includes a prolonged display of McGregor’s no-longer private parts, is simplistic and banal rather than exacting and mannered.
  18. Peter Greenaway's unorthodox drama treats the movie screen less as an entertainment device than a postmodern canvas upon which he writes, photographs, and records an intricate multicultural collage. [06 Jun 1997]
  19. Reviewed by: Leah Jewett
    Here both Greenaway's strengths and weaknesses are on show as he toys with the viewers' capacity to ingest blurring metaphors and convoluted content.
  20. 10
    The Pillow Book's pretentions are boundless, for all its desperate fashion and layered imagery, it's a staggering bore-as vacantly petulant as Kate Moss's stare. [10 Jun 1997]

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