In Kyoto in the 1970s, a calligrapher delicately writes a greeting on his daughter's face on her birthday. When she becomes a woman, the daughter Nagiko remembers the event with excitement and searches hard to find an ideal calligrapher-lover to use her whole body as his paper. In Hong Kong she meets Jerome, an English translator, who convinces her that she should be the pen and not the paper - she should write on his body and he will carry her writing on his skin to a publisher.
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"The encounter of two forms of calligraphy, one traditional, from the Orient and the other experimental, by the British director Peter Greenaway. The second uses the first as its stimulus for a more humane approach than in his most recent films and so returns to the inspiration of his most accomplished works ( "The Draughtsman's Contract, The Belly of an Architect") (...). A tale of love and death, "The Pillow Book" blends the filmaker's mathematical rigour with Japanese ceremonial, forms ties and discrepancies to create a work with stylistic harmony and striking themes. Andrée Putman's sets are magnified by Sacha Vierny's lighting and thus become the crucible of Greenaway's thoughts from which they seem to emanate." (Pascal Mérigeau, Le Nouvel Observateur)