MOVIES . . . THE PILLOW BOOK: As a birthday present each year, little Nagiko's father would write in elegant Japanese calligraphy, on the childís face. Twenty years later, Nagiko (Vivian Wu) tries to duplicate, erotically, the touch of her father's brush. She challenges her lovers to write their lust all over her body. Then she finds a handsome Englishman (Ewan McGregor) who convinces her that she should do the writing, on his body. "Any Peter Greenaway (Drowning by Numbers, The Cook The Thief His Wife & Her Lover) film is a complex word-and-picture game -- of stories within stories, images within images, like a Chinese puzzle box," says TIME's Richard Corliss. "The director also insists that his actors throw themselves, soul and especially body, into his complex revenge scenarios. It's lovely that, in an age when pop culture dances with the dunces, someone has the mandarin urge to arouse and test his audience. Lovelier still when, as in The Pillow Book, text and texture meet so exquisitely. Sex is a visual art, Greenaway says, and writing is a matter of life and death."
MOVIES . . . ULEE'S GOLD: It's hard to understand the critical enthusiasm and good grosses that have so far greeted Ulee's Gold, notes TIME's Richard Schickel. "Some of it probably derives from a desire to welcome star Peter Fonda back from his long exile on the fringes of moviemaking, and the fact that, in his maturity, he reminds us a little bit of his father. Most of it, though, surely arises from the desire to encourage an alternative cinema of sobriety and humanity in the midst of summerís heavily mechanized silly season." The key moment in writer-director Victor Nunez's film comes when Ulee could pick up a stray gun and blast a pair of bad guys away. He doesnít, and you just know that this austere refusal of the conventionally melodramatic will eventually win 'Ulee's Gold' an Independent Spirit Award. "We, meantime, are left wondering if some dynamics in the direction, some perversity in the development of characters, some surprises in the story -- qualities that animated Lone Star, which so richly filled this slot last summer -- would constitute that much of a sellout."