Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Pillow Book


With Norman being relatively stable and CyberCistern, my ISP, having shut down the VickiCam website after the complaints about his nude yoga exercises, I've had to look about for a new project for all of my boundless energies and to keep myself accessible to my hordes of fans. I was unsure of what to do until representatives of the local Democratic Party showed up on my doorstep one day last week. It seems that the Democrats have been taking a walloping in our area recently and they're looking to recruit candidates of high public profile and known accomplishment to put on the ticket. I have the honor of announcing that I have been asked to run for City of Beverly Hills animal control officer on the Democratic ticket.

This was an answer to a prayer, I immediately got out the darling little Edith Head suit I wore in the musical version of State of the Union and had photos taken for the campaign posters. Norman thinks my slogan should be 'Catch with a Snatch' but I think that might give voters the wrong impression. My opponent, who has a degree in animal husbandry (it's apparently not illegal in Alabama, where he comes from), has nothing on me who has spent so much screen time with Lassie, Rin-Tin-Tin, Francis, the Talking Mule, and other major stars. I'm sitting down tomorrow with strategists to map out a winning campaign and to have Bob Mackie work on my wardrobe for public appearances. Lots of red, white and blue.

Norman's recent foray into nude yoga inspired me to put The Pillow Book into the home theater system the other night while I was busy drawing sketches of campaign posters. This movie stars that darling Ewan McGregor as Jerome, an English translator in Hong Kong; he meets up with Nagiko (Vivian Wu), a Japanese girl who wants to be a writer and together they paint Asian calligraphy all over each other’s naked bodies. Ewan, a very modern young man, plays his part as a happy bisexual who paints and is painted by his girl all day and who sleeps with her publisher all evening in order to have her work recognized. There’s also a bunch of subplots about the girl’s family of origin, and a medieval Japanese courtesan who wrote the most famous ‘Pillow Book’ in Asiatic literature. This is a Peter Greenaway film, which means that plot, character, narrative, and organization all take a backseat to visual style. Greenaway is interested in the potential of film as a visual medium and works more as a painter with celluloid than a traditional filmmaker.

I have been something of a Greenaway fan ever since The Draughtsman's Contract some decades ago and have seen most of his work. His images and ideas tend to be stunning, dangerous, daring and visceral. A moment of surreal beauty worthy of Vermeer will be followed by a sickening shot of decay in unusual juxtaposition and counterpoint. His films are often organized around a visual hook of some kind. In The Draughtsman’s Contract , it was a series of delicate architectural renderings. In Drowning by Numbers , it’s the numerals 1 to 100. In this film, it’s careful Asian calligraphy done with body paint, with light and as optical effects, overlying more traditional images. With this film, Greenaway regresses somewhat. There is much here to like with the recreation of imperial Kyoto, the gorgeous calligraphy, the sensuous lighting but it all ultimately comes to naught as he keeps letting his modern day psychobabble plot about relatively uninteresting individuals get in the way.

The film gathered a certain amount of attention on release because of the extensive frontal nudity from Ewan McGregor, whose star was starting to rise in Hollywood. He does have a lovely body and keeps no secrets from the audience. Norman kept exclaiming 'Holy Cow! Look at the size of that thing!' throughout. There is also nudity from his lovely young costar, Vivian Wu. Also, unusual for film, there is extensive and continuous frontal male nudity from a variety of types whose bodies serve as the pages of Nagiko’s books. But all the shots in the world of a naked Ewan cannot save the muddle that mixes environmental terrorists, father/daughter problems, suicide, bodily desecration, and strange French and Japanese pop songs together in a tumbled heap.  It's a movie to see once for its bold visuals, and then promptly forget.

Skin painting. Hong Kong nightclubs. Bonsai. Grave robbing. Gratuitous naked extras. Ancient courtesans. Bad marriages. Gratuitous British mother. Tanned human.

No comments:

Post a Comment