Memoirs of a Geisha:
“Memoirs of a geisha” has a running time of 2 hours and 25 minutes, as well as a wide cast of actors, including: Ken Watanbe, Michelle yeoh, Ziyi Zhang, Koji Yakusho, Kaori Momoi, and Gong Li. The movie is based on the best-selling novel written by Arthur Golden. Genre vise I would characterize this movie as a “romantic drama” due to the fact that throughout the duration of this movie love was a main focus. Tradition and honor are also main focuses in this movie. Even though this movie in my opinion seems unappealing to westerners’, and was on a completely different cultural plateau than America it still managed to become a box office hit. “Memoirs of a Geisha” made a shocking 57,010,853 U.S dollars.
The movie “Memoirs of a geisha” takes us through the life of a young girl called Chiyo who is sold by her parents to the manager of an “Okiya” (Geisha house). Chiyos’ upbringing could best be described as a struggle. The reason? Well that would be the uncontainable wickedness of the movies’ antagonist Hatsumomo. Driven by jealously she deliberately gets Chiyo into trouble, this to such a point that Chiyo eventually is forced to work as a slave to pay for a “Kimono” that was ruined by a Hatsumomo-mischief. Day in and day out, living a miserable excuse of a life leaves Chiyo with little motivation.
However, destiny seemed to have a meddling touch in the events that took place on one life changing day. As Chiyo cries in despair a kind man comforts her, but this man isn’t just anyone, he turns out to be the love of Chiyo’s life. Her negative take on life suddenly turned positive. A newly motivated Chiyo starts working hard in hope of meeting the chairman again. This moment was the turning point of Chiyo’s life.
Eventually a great respected Geisha (Mameha) bets the manager of Chiyo’s Okiya that she can make Chiyo the most sought after Geisha in all of Kyoto, but in return she must be allowed to keep the money she earns from selling her “Mizuage” (virginity). The manager accepts the bet, and from that day on Chiyo dedicates her life to becoming a Geisha. After all this the movie keeps unfolding in much more positive way.
A new life of elegance, pride and splendor unravels as Mameha takes charge and teaches Chiyo how to be a true Geisha. After much work, struggle and heartache Chiyo is transformed into the most desirable Geisha in Kyoto, and is getting closer to her prime objective of meeting the chairman again. When her Geisha training is completed Chiyo is given a new name: Sayuri. The name is given to symbolize the transformation Chiyo has made -> from a girl to a woman.
Finally Sayuri meets the chairman at a Sumo wrestling-match when she is accompanying the chairman’s long time friend, and business partner Mr. Nobu. Even though Sayuri is told by Mameha to give all of her attention to Mr. Nobu, her mind wanders off in the presence of the chairman. In spite of being distracted by the chairman’s presence she still manages to get Mr. Nobus’ attention. Prior to being accompanied by Sayuri, Mr. Nobu hasn’t really liked geishas. But her elegant way of being, and her way with words truly mesmerized him.
After the meeting with Mr. Nobu and the chairman, Sayuris’ “Mizuage” is up for auction, the highest bidder turns out to be Dr. Crab, which is a somewhat insignificant character. Subsequently, the situation takes a turn for the worse as American soldiers invade Kyoto, and the rest of Japan for that matter. The prestige of being a geisha plummets, and even prostitutes walk around calling themselves geishas. Due to the unfortunate circumstances Sayuri is forced to give up her lifestyle, and do hard labor to scratch out a living. At the end of this movie there is another turn of events, but in order to find out what that is you must watch the movie.
Keeping in mind that this movie is supposed to portray the life of a geisha, whilst’ capturing the essence of ancient Japan gives it a low score in my book. The producer seems more interested in making some kind of Japanese version of “telemondo” than displaying true Japanese culture. From the Incoherent bitching between the geishas, to the uncharacteristic pursuit of forbidden love shows that there is too much of a western meddling in the making of this film. The other thing about this movie that is, what should say…, under par is the evident lack of English-speaking actors. In spite of Gong Li’s acting capacity and her undeniable beauty, her poor English-speaking ability is translucent. The same goes for many of the other smaller roles in this movie. In my opinion; the best phrase to sum up “Memoirs of a Geisha” is the following: “Cultural Nonsense”.
Nonetheless, we have a number of positive aspects that the makers of this movie did display. Everything from the wardrobe, to the way of shooting this movie was done brilliantly. With the camera firmly aimed at Sayuri throughout the movie, supported by very realistic special effects, the movie obtains a certain finesse. To top it off, the soundtrack reinforces the refined style this movie already projects through the use of camera, and of course the way the movie seems sensible. Another thing I like about this movie is the chronological order in which the plot unfolds, it gives a very natural, and down-to-earth flair to the movie.
Supposedly, the book is a great deal better than the movie, this according to the harshest of critics that have written reviews of the movie. This movie didn’t really come to my liking; consequently I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone. Nevertheless, I believe that viewers who aren’t judgmental (like I had to be writing this review) might enjoy this movie. The plot, however culturally perplexed, is quiet entertaining. Personally, I give this movie a 4 out of 10. In closing; a culturally impaired movie, with a disappointing cast of actors. On the bright side there was a compelling story, with an original idea.