The Pillow Book
One of the most accomplished chapters in Peter Greenaway's quest to turn movies into books, this may be the writer-director's metaphorical autobiography. Atypical for Greenaway in its emphasis on drama and linear narrative, this audacious and seemlessly successful formal experiment provides a revealing glimpse into the emotions of a filmmaker who usually keeps a vast intellectual distance from his material. The story chronicles a woman's ambition to redress her father's exploitive relationship with his publisher and establish herself as a writer--and both endeavors are understood by Greenaway in psychoanalytic terms to be variations on the same theme. The filmmaker's picture-in-picture techniques merge with the painstaking production and sound design, editing, and use of subtitles--as important for how they look as for what they say--to add several dimensions to the medium of cinema. The result is a lucid exposition of Greenaway's idiosyncratic ideas about transcending the medium and a compelling narrative with empathic characters that reveals the sexual nature of something that's not often associated directly with sexuality--the act of writing. In this respect the movie shows up Crash, which fails to make a similar case for car accidents. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, July 4 through 10. --Lisa Alspector
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): flim still.