Memoirs of a Geisha [based on book] by dir. by

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Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIn short, this is a film that is pretty to look at, but boring to watch.

Okay, I’ll say a bit more about it: Memoirs of a Geisha has been somewhat controversial. Some people complained about casting Chinese actors in the roles of Japanese women. And recently China banned it because, well I suppose because of their historical issues with Japan.
The film opens with two young sisters being sold by their father, one of whom is our heroine. I’m going to call her Sayuri, although she only gets this name later in the film. Sayuri ends up in a geisha house, and is mistreated by the head geisha, Hatsumomo, because of the possibility that she will grow up to be a rival to Hatsumomo.

Too much of the film is spent in her childhood. There is no tension in this entire period. We can’t hope that she escapes from the house because we know that she doesn’t. the film is called Memoirs of a Geisha afterall, not Memoirs of a someone who once spent some time in training to be a geisha.

But eventually Sayuri grows up, and is taken under Mameha’s wing. Mameha is Hatsumomo’s rival, and there is much bitching and snide comments between the two, and also between Hatsumomo and Sayuri, as Sayuri attempts to learn how to be geisha. But the comments are never quite bitchy enough, they don’t make an impact, although we do get the impression that Hatsumomo wishes looks really could kill.

One of the big problems I had with the film is that you just don’t care. You aren’t really invited into the world of the geishas, you are simply a distant onlooker. We never really know what a geisha is, apart from a skillful entertainer, and an artist.

There is quite a big deal made about the fact that being a geisha is not to be a prostitute. Yet they sell off their virginity. Getting money for sex means prostitution, doesn’t matter how classy you pretend to be.

And the whole romance thing with The Chairman was utterly boring to me. I mean, were we really supposed to believe that she fell in love with him when she was nine, and her feelings never altered? Then again I suppose it was meant to show her determination. Sayuri was so taken with his little act of kindness that she built him up and made him the goal of her future.

But all in all the film is too long, too distant, and this may be petty, but the accents annoyed me. I’d much preferred to have watched it subtitled in Japanese, although they probably would have had a problem with the cast not speaking the language then.

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5 Responses

  1. Carl V. says:

    As I said on the main page, Ziyi Zhang would've been the only reason to see this for me but I can watch her other movies and do away with the whole white face thing! Good review, sorry it wasn't entertaining.

  2. Fence says:

    She actually doesn't have the totally white face for a lot of the film, and she looks lovely.

  3. NineMoons says:

    She looks so lovely, most of the time I just watched her and sighed. She's like a work of art. Which I guess means that at least THAT part of the film was well done, since geisha are supposed to be living works of art and artists rolled into one.

  4. Aorijia says:

    I agree with you.

    I don't know if you have had the chance to read the book. Despite not being a literary jewel, it is much more entertaining than the film. Why?

    All the weight of the movie rests on Sayuri´s relationship with the chairman, relationship which is btw totally distorted from the one depicted in the book.

    In the book, Hatsumomo´s role is fundamental. I think giving Gong Li more space in the film would have spiced it up.

    Visually, the movie is pleasing, but as you say, you don't "get in". You just look at it, at beautiful Ziyi mumbling sentences she has just learnt phonetically, but cannot really understand…

    Sorry for the speech, and for the spelling mistakes.

  5. Fence says:

    Hi Aorijia,

    I haven't read the book. There was so much hype when it came out that I avoided it. And now I'll have to wait till the memory of the film fades a little.