The Pillow Book

Bomb Rating: 

All men know what I'm about to say is absolutely true and, since my reputation as a purveyor of the truth is so widely respected, I feel obligated to be the first to make the following admission: I don't want to see any movie where a man is presented totally nude and has a bigger penis than I do.

Ewan ("Trainspotting") McGregor plays a translator who becomes lover to Nagiko (Vivian Wu). His body becomes the paper upon which she practices her calligraphy. She then presents her human tome to an old family adversary, a homosexual publisher (Yoshi Oida), in an effort to hook him on her unusual method of storytelling.

Director Peter Greenaway, well-known for his visual and sexual cinematic stylings, presents a whole slew of totally naked men standing around being drawn on by Nagiko. While it was a significant point of pride to discover that I was better hung than all the men in Japan, it didn't mitigate my alarmed fixation on McGregor, who proved better hung than I. Perhaps he got some kind of rubdown before his takes. Perhaps the camera was at a favorable angle. Perhaps he was wearing a prosthetic or had his penis digitally remastered as a stipulation of his contract. All I know is that I had to sit in the theater for two hours confronted with glaring evidence of my own inadequacy.

As for directorial style, Greenaway employs some unusual techniques, most notably something that looks like a cinematic thesis titled "Picture-within-a-Picture Technology: The Enemy of Coherent Narrative." As if the topic of ill-conceived, self-indulgent filmmaking hadn't already been thoroughly covered by Greenaway's previous films.

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