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The Pillow Book and Cinema as Hybridity


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In many ways, The Pillow Book can be read as a paradigm of hybrid movie making:

  • The film works almost like an opera or theater performance done with digital and film techniques for representing historical and present “film time” narratives simultaneously.
  • Greenaway sees cinema as the ultimate mixing platform: using film as a conceptual medium, he mixes all genres, and he he keeps the “high-tech” and “low tech” techniques visible in the film.
  • Multiple narratives, interweaving history, memory, past and present cultural and sexual identities
  • Use of digital editing, “picture in picture,” multiple narrative frames to cut across time, points of view, memory, and simultaneous camera views of story
  • Shock value of nudity on the edges of eroticism and de-sexualization– more male nudity than female in the film.
  • Conventions of black and white and color for symbolic associations
  • Text, writing, inscribed body, and image combined with cinema and moving image
  • Traditional, historical and contemporary music encode the images and visual narrative
  • The cultural meanings of the male and female body, and the use of the body as a signifying vehicle: both the nude body as it signifies in culture, the sexualized body, the de-sexualized body, and the body as a surface for writing, encoding messages.
  • Writing on the body becomes erotic, seduction, a personal fetish, a complex message, and a means of revenge.
  • Writing on the body as seduction becomes means of revenge against the homosexual publisher: seen to have betrayed Nagiko’s father and taken her current lover, Jerome. Calligraphy on the body as lover’s revenge.
  • Search for calligrapher-lover is quest for ultimate sexual relationship. Gender reversals in who is writing and who is written upon: who has more power–the writer or the one using the body to seduce and be written upon?
  • Resonates with our deepest cultural metaphors about body, soul, writing as externalized speech and mind, “the word became flesh.”

Zhang Huan: The Artist and the Body as Medium of Writing, Inscription, Cultural Codes

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In this series of photographs, the artist has a face written over in stages until the face is black with ink and obliterated by the text.

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