Sunday, January 08, 2006

Memoirs of Memoirs of a Geisha

A Movie Review

So last night my brother and sister-in-law invite me to go out with them to see a movie. When we arrive at the theater to decide what we are going to see, my brother and I come up with a list of about three movies that we would like to view (acutely there would have been even more but we ruled out films that any of us had previously seen). My sister-in-law, ever cleaver, suggests that we should eat first, so by the time we get out of the restaurant the only movie left with a decent show time is her perferd selection Memoirs of a Geisha; acutely Fun with Dick and Jane was also available but the problem with that movie is that it is Fun with Dick and Jane. I have no ill will however, she won the movie game fair and square.

So after sitting through the recently re-christened pre-movie show (call it what you will but it is still The 20 and it still stinks), and the prerequisite previews (Lord forgive me but I do want to see American Dreamz), the film began. Now I did not expect to like this film, I was hopeing at best that it would bear some resemblance to The Last Emperor, I film I really do like. The opening narration of the movie has the protagonist intoning that "A story like mine should never be told", by the end of the film I believe my brother and sister-in-law shared that sentiment, I on the other hand only believe that story should not be told by Rob Marshall (I absolutely hated Chicago).

Now the first 50 minutes of this film are painfully boring, I had to force myself up in my seat and I'm sure my tongue was hanging out at several points. In short Sayuri (Ziyi Zhang, though played by a different actress in the childhood scenes) is separated from her family and sold into a geisha house to pay for the medical expenses of her dying mother. Sayuri's childhood is not a pleasant one, with a demanding matron, and cruel "older sister" Hatsumomo (Li Gong), though she does find a friend in fellow geshia-to-be Pumpkin (Youki Kudon). Eventually Sayuri meets the kindly chairman of an electric company ( Ken Watanabe), who buys her a snow-cone and to whom the young girl instantly falls in love. It is at this point that the film finally picks up.

Sayuri is taken under the tutelage of the most famous geisha in all the land Mamcha (Micheli Yeoh), who trains the young girl to be her successor. I suppose that now I should explain that a Geisha is a sort of high-class fantasy women, different from a traditional prostitute in that she is given classical training and kept a virgin until her 'first time' is auctioned off to the highest bidder, in Sayuri case a wealthy doctor. Through Mamcha Sayuri comes again into contact with her beloved chairman, only to become the object of fancy for his business partner Nobu (Koji Yakusho) who was somewhat deformed in battle in Manchuria and who the chairman owes his life.

World War II intervenes before a relationship with either partner can be consummated, and Sayuri is farmed out to serve as a laundress in the country-side. After the war Nobu returns for her with the hope of using her to charm an American Colonel into giving them an important government contract. However the Colonel comes to expect more then just 'company' from Sayuri, which angers the surprisingly naive Nobu and leads to further complication. The picture goes on for a little while after this point, and though I don't want to give away to much about the ending, I will state that I found it a little to 'neat' and felt as though it didn't jive with the tone of the rest of the movie.

While I do not traditionally find east-Asian women to be particularly attractive (just a matter of personal taste), Ziyi Zhang is a truly beautiful women with enchanting aqua-blue eyes that are repeatedly commented on throughout the film. Surprising most of the cast is not Japanese's, a lot of Chinese and at least one Malaysian are among the staring players, the film also boast the impressive visuals and set designs you would expect from a Spielberg produced movie. The picture is like a cake that is not baked evenly however, which leaves parts sweet and others highly unappealing. The Pumpkin character ended up taking a direction I hadn't expected, and the American characters were decidedly one-dementional (though I fear disturbingly accurate). Spielberg who managed to make some equally difficult characters seem more human in The Color Purple might have been a better choice as director then Marshall who seems more concerned with form then substance. A true mixed bag of a flick its best to know what to expect before viewing Geshia, or else you'll leave the theater confused and depressed like my brother and his wife.


At 12:25 PM, Blogger GlennBeckFan said...

Yeah, Lisa really wants to see this one. While for the most part i agre with you about Asian women, i do make an acception for the Japanese as a general rule, and some Chinese, such as Ziyi Zhang. As "we speak", I am watching House of Flying Daggers. If you haven't seen that one, I highly recommend it and will have to let you borrow it!


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