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This is a truly glorious, romantic, genuine film, filled with tension, heartache, and (ultimately) love realised, that, for me, makes this film a classic of cinema. The acting, photography, pacing, script - all, and more - make this a sumptuous film to absorb, fall in love with, and love the ending. It is touching and romantic, a wonderful love story, in the same way that Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (Wordsworth Classics), or Emily, her sister's Wuthering Heights (Wordsworth Classics), is likewise. The sheer beauty of the geisha costumes, the geisha's talents and traditions are stunning and fascinating to behold. It's an absolutely wonderful film.The only thing that's bad about this beautiful film, is that it only won three Academy Oscars . Anyone who watches this wonderful movie, will also, I'm sure, give it Oscars for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress (for Ziji Zhang, the geisha at the centre of the film, and Michelle Yeoh, respectively), besides the beautiful performances of Ken Watanabe and Koji Yakusho), and the terrific musical score by John Williams. An real amazing film =)
There is much to admire about Rob Marshall's adaptation of Arthur Golden's international best-selling novel of the same name. "Memoirs of a Geisha" boasts some stunning locations that were all built from scratch, captivating cinematography that captures the endlessly beautiful visuals that stem from gorgeous women, magnificent costumes, complicated yet exquisite make-up, breathtaking scenery and fantastic music. It truly is a great-looking film and the achievement in the technical department cannot be faulted one bit.
"Geisha," as Mameha (Michelle Yeoh) tells the naïve Sayuri (Zhang Ziyi), means artist. They are technically not prostitutes. They entertain men and keep them company. Sex is not obligatory per se, but if a rich client desires it, it appears they do not have the power to choose. So the phrase "technically not prostitutes" doesn't seem to mean a lot. They train in the art of music, dancing and conversation. It appears they are more like high-class call girls. And we learn the training to become a popular geisha is an immensely painful, hardcore, competitive one that cannot be taken lightly. Sayuri is a blue-eyed, nine-year-old girl (Suzuka Ohgo) when she is sold to a Geisha house. She is forced to undertake hard labour and in her younger years she marvels at the glamorous lives the geishas lead. How can she not admire them? They wear sumptuous kimonos, are surrounded by men who shower them with expensive gifts, and are treated as royalty. Sayuri has a chance encounter with a much older businessman, the Chairman (Ken Watanabe), whose charm and generosity only fuels her passion for becoming a geisha even more, since she dreams of spending her life with him one day. It's the forbidden love scenario all over again, since you don't become a geisha to choose and search for your true love.
However, her dream is on the verge of being ruined when the richest, most celebrated geisha in her geisha house Hatsumomo (Gong Li) takes an instant hostile attitude towards the girl. And Hatsumomo is not a woman you would want to mess with. She is scheming and vindictive, and would do anything to see the downfall of her enemies. Nevertheless a ray of hope shows for our heroine - Mameha, a kind-hearted, well-admired geisha in a different geisha house decides to take Sayuri under her wings. Memeha is willing to give her the best training possible to turn Sayuri into the most successful geisha Japan has ever seen.
And so the extensive training begins. The montage is annoyingly brief and barely glanced over, but the core elements are there. She needs to master the many fancy dancing moves using two fans, she needs to walk properly in platform shoes that have at least 8-inch heels, she needs to play the traditional Japanese musical instruments flawlessly, she needs to learn how to pour tea in a discrete manner, she needs to learn how to show just enough flesh to seduce but not arouse, she needs to engage in witty conversations, she needs to slip subtle hints and gifts to clients who show interest in her and the list goes on and on. This is summed up in a ten or fifteen minute sequence that shows Sayuri failing first, but then a few seconds later, mastering the techniques perfectly. Yes, time has passed between the two scenes, but it still feels rushed and the film seems to be keener to move on to the plot developments that come after she becomes a real geisha. A shame, since Arthur Golden's "Memoirs of a Geisha" is as much about the world of geishas as it is about becoming one.
She works hard, and her effort is paid off eventually. She performs her way to the top; she becomes famous throughout the town, and starts to leads a prosperous life. This is where the film's handsome budget truly proves its worth; making no restrictions as to how many sparkling, shiny things it can show on-screen at any given moment. The many detailed kimonos are expertly designed and they look impressively authentic. The colours and the smooth material are mesmerising to just look at but when the geishas start gliding and dancing in them with much elegance, the visual impact is more than tripled and it is easy to completely soak up and be lost in the midst of so many dazzling spectacles that try to distract us from the lack of anything more profound and in-depth. The various performances the geishas put on for show are a heavenly treat for the eyes, something that Marshall is very confident in capturing. He did direct the Oscar-winning musical "Chicago" after all.
But as the film moves into its final section, the scenes dealing with Sayuri's eternal yet secret love towards the Chairman is not handled so well. It is supposed to be moving, leaving the audience in tears, but something doesn't quite feel right. The pace is wrong, and there are too many moments in the film where the Chairman is forgotten completely. So it's only natural for us to lose touch with Watanabe's character, and when he returns, although Sayuri is more than ecstatic, we don't feel the same way. It's hard to support a happily-ever-after for the two characters, since they hardly seem to know one another well enough to survive each other's company for all eternity.
All the actresses, despite the controversy that the three main actresses (Ziyi, Yeoh, Li) aren't actually Japanese, are wonderful. Ziyi, Yeoh and Li are all astonishing beauties and incredibly talented at the same time who can absolutely portray their characters convincingly. Li's chillingly evil, disturbed and rebellious performance is top-notch. Her ultimate meltdown is one of the film's highlights, handled incredibly well by the actress. Yeoh is the nurturing mother type, with her soft-spoken voice and properly set appearance working to the actress' advantage. Ziyi is confident in her first English-spoken Hollywood debut - at first she is a shy, timid young woman who then develops into a legend. The young actress Ohgo is also a surprising discovery leading the first few chapters with utmost poise. Kaori Momoi also chips in a faultless performance as the cut-throat, ruthless, money-hungry shark - the owner of Sayuri's geisha house.
Whilst it doesn't quite capture the sentimental emotions of the original novel, the film packs in enough exotic visual treats to keep us hooked throughout most of the running time. With fabulous performances, "Memoirs of a Geisha" is a memorable rags-to-riches story with some added bonus of blending it with an unfamiliar culture.
Memoirs of a Geisha ranks quite easily among the most intense and poignant movie that I have ever watched. I read the book prior to watching the film and as in every film adaptations; there are quite a few differences. But I have to say that the depiction of the story was really really realistic in the film.
Many of my friends who watched the film with me claimed that it was a harsh attack on feminism and some of them told me that they were quite disgusted by the anti-feminist issues that are depicted all through the film. But in my opinion, Memoirs of a Geisha is more of a cultural, rather than a feminist (or anti-feminist) piece of work. The concept of the Geisha is one that was deeply rooted in Asian culture at the time, and I think that the movie gave quite a depiction of how sometimes life left no choice to some women, especially during the harsh times before World War One. If you ask me, like the book, the film was also very focused on the "art" of being a Geisha as an entertainer, rather than as a prostitute.
On one stormy night, Chiyo is brutally uprooted from her home and sent to an Okiya to learn the art of becoming a Geisha. There, she immediately becomes bullied by Hatsumomo, one of the most celebrated Geishas of that time. After a series of circumstances, it is decided that Chiyo will eventually stop her Geisha training to become a maid, the latter has to watch as her friend Pumpkin takes her first steps into the world of entertainment. Chiyo is struck by a deep longing to become a Geisha too, so that she may be in the company of the one man she ever loved since she was a child. That is where an ex-Geisha called Mameha steps in to take Chiyo under her wing....But in the face of so many obstacles, will Chiyo be able to become a Geisha and find love?
The first thing that I loved about this film was the paradox included within. Geishas are supposed to be entertainers and are considered to be one step above prostitution. Love is a word that isn't supposed to be applicable to them. Yet, from the very start of the film, the audience is faced with a Geisha in love. I think that this added an extremely poignant aspect to the whole film- and this was something that narrowly mirrors this element of love as seen in the book. The actress that they chose to portray Chiyo was stunningly remarkable in her role: Everything about her, from her body language to her facial expressions and her line deliveries- everything depicted both the vulnerability and strength that she had as a Geisha.
Two other actresses who left quite an impression on me were the ones who portrayed Hatsumomo and Mameha. I think that Li Gong, who played Hatsumomo was amazingly outstanding and terrifying in the role of the wicked Geisha. I believe that it takes quite a lot of talent and concentration to play the bad one in a film and Li Gong was fantastic- she was everything you imagine an evil person to be. In addition, she played with her facial expressions in such a manner than they conveyed much more than words could ever convey. For her part, Michelle Yeoh was as amazing and imposing in her role of Mameha. Between these two actresses, I believe that it was a good thing that the lead actress was so talented because she could have easily been out shadowed.
The one thing that I would advise viewers who read the book is not to compare the film to the novel. There are bound to be some differences and such a comparison would just hider anyone's appreciation of this film.
* Sazuka Ohgo
* Li Gong
* Tsai Chin
* Kaori Momoi
* Zoe Weizenbaum
* Michelle Yeoh
My DVD only had one Featurette which was sadly disappointing
Overall, this is a film that I would recommend absolutely everyone to watch. It has all the necessary ingredients for a fantastic cultural dram.
Thanks for reading!
Before i die, i have two ambitions. One is to drive a Formula One racing car and the other is to go to Japan. I have always been fascinated by the traditions, the Geishas, Samurai and Japanese Food.
I read Memoirs of a Geisha about 8 years ago and i loved every minute of it. When i heard about the film being madde, i was ecstatic. It is very difficult to express in a film, the harsh life that Geisha's have but it did portray the book and the life of a Geisha with total accuracy.
Sayuri is taken from her home, along with her sister to Kyoto where Sayuri is trained to be a Geisha. The film takes you through the harshness of her childhood and young life as a slave to a Geisha. It tells of her struggle to be the perfect Geisha whilst loving a man whom she sees as unattanable.
Throughout the film she is used for other peoples gains, and this wonderful, compelling film, contains alot of emotions including sadness, hatred and jealousy and finally love.
I found the scenery breath taking, the feeling of the traditions of Japan cruel, overwhelming and fascinating and Sayuri was steadfast, a trait that most people will never have.
The beautiful Kimono's, the entrancing dances and the peek at Japanese Culture is a pleasure to watch.
A beautiful film and wonderful soundtrack. I read the book before the film and was captured by the images of a world I would never know and the film adaptation, though lacking in certain details as many adaptations do, is complementary to integrity of the book. Sayuri is wonderfully portrayed throughout the film; her beautiful sad blue-grey eyes reflecting the constraints and isolating nature of the world she has been forced to live in. Pumpkin is also a wonderfully endearing character whose marked confident transition during the war into a garish tourist-trap geisha confirmed my original impression that she has an American accent in real life - she lets certain words slip but is perfectly convincing throughout. The beautiful landscapes, rounded characters and exposing the intricacies and harsh realities of a world based on the value of respect and expectation from women in that culture, the tragedy of being unable to choose the ones we love and the remarkable twist that brings the ones we ache for throughout the movie , to finally find one another.
A wonderful, beautiful story and film.
I bought a few DVDs a while ago, that were on offer for around £5 each, and hadn't got around to watching a couple of them. I was given the opportunity to select one for viewing the other night as there was nothing on TV that we wanted to watch. I selected one called "Memoirs of a Geisha" and sat back to enjoy a cosy night in with my other half.
The story unfolds by showing us two little Japanese girls who are separated from their parents, which was a bit harrowing to watch. It appears that they have been sold by their father.
They are unfortunately separated from each other a short while later, which again, wasn't exactly easy viewing, and the main character ends up working in a Geisha house as a servant, all the while having the intentions to escape and find her sister.
Whilst working in the house, the little girl befriends another young girl, nicknamed "pumpkin", and learns the rituals that go with preparing a geisha for her work, and running the house in which they live with their "mother". Whilst living in the house, the girls are all subjected to bullying and intimidation by the main geisha, but this goes without punishment for the bully as she is the most powerful geisha in the house, and therefore brings in the most money. For this reason, she is given a lot of allowances.
The main plot of the film is how the main character grows from a shy, awkward little village girl who is used to poverty and being a servant, into an educated, successful geisha herself. She falls in love at an early stage in her life, and wants desperately to win the heart of the man she has fallen in love with, but chance meetings with him are a rarity, and she has a lot of competition to contend with!
I liked the sets on the movie, and on the whole they were realistic. The scenes of the surrounding area were at times breathtaking - lots of mountains and misty lakes. I also thought that the scenes that were shot within the geisha house set were fairly realistic, although I obviously have a somewhat limited opinion of what the inside of a geisha house does actually look like!
I personally would have liked to have seen a bit more detail given about the rituals that a geisha has to undertake; for example, there wasn't much information given about the rules regarding posture, nor about the tea-pouring ritual, and personally I would have enjoyed a bit more of an insight into the preparations a geisha has to go through before their "debut" (their first 'outing') than was actually shown. That said, the film never claimed to be a documentary about how a geisha is made up and the rituals she has to learn, so perhaps I am being unfair.
The film was entertaining enough that I wanted to keep watching, but not so much that I was on the end of my seat with anticipation. I felt that all of the actors and actresses played their parts extremely well (particularly the children, who did an excellent job) but if I'm honest I felt that there was 'something missing' from a few of the characters. In particular I felt that this was the case with the 'mother' of the geisha house. At times she was positively wooden, in my opinion.
The film is given a 12 certificate, which I thought was a bit low. There are a few instances of violence, particularly near the start of the film that might be upsetting for some viewers. There is also some nudity, and a couple of sex scenes. The main theme of bullying throughout the movie, however, is most likely what earned it this rating - it is quite intense at times, although not so much that it made me uncomfortable watching it.
We are subjected to quite a few confusing moments throughout the movie, confusing for me, at least! The story is quite fast-paced in places, and I personally found it a bit difficult to keep up at times. Also, the accents throughout the movie can be very soft and quiet and difficult to pick up what the character is saying, so much so, that we ended up putting subtitles on! This didn't take anything away from the movie, though, but it did take us a little while before we got used to the soft accents used by some of the characters.
The best bit about the movie for me was the eventual transformation from that little girl we knew who we viewed from the start of the movie, who had no shoes on her feet and wore raggedy clothes, into a beautiful and magnificent geisha, who was given (or earned) the name "Sayuri". It was an interesting transformation to witness, but I was really disappointed that more emphasis wasn't given to how a geisha is made-up, as I mentioned earlier.
I'd rate the film 3 out of 5, and I'm probably being a bit generous at that. I'll probably not watch it again, and I've no inclination to rush out and read the book, now that I've seen the film.
I also felt that the film was a bit "padded out" at places, and towards the end of the film I couldn't believe that it was still going strong! I think that at least twenty minutes of film could be cut from it, and we would still have the same story. Or, instead, perhaps we could have some of those insights into "life as a geisha" that I mentioned earlier - come on, show us how the hair and clothes are prepared, at the very least!?
Rather amazingly, for me at least, the DVD cover proudly informs me that the film won 3 Oscars, although none of them are for acting. I'm unsurprised to read on and discover that the movie won an Oscar for Cinematography.
The DVD states that it has a running time of 139 minutes approx, and there are a few special features, such as an audio commentary and "Sayuri's journey: From the Novel to the Screen". I can't comment on any of the bonus features because by the time the film had ended, we had had enough and wanted to watch something else!
It's probably worth a watch, perhaps I'm being overly-critical, but we both honestly felt that there was something missing from the movie on the whole. And something quite important, at that.
I really have to say a massive Thanks to my hubby for picking this film. I had looked at it several times but never thought that he would be interested in watching it. Yesterday he actually said he quite fancied seeing it so we decided to give it a go. I am so pleased we did.
I am going to try and explain the plot in the most straight forward way as I can as it is quite difficult as the film in very involving and the story cannot be predicted even right up to the last 20 minutes.
The film is set in Japan where two young girls who are living at home find that their mother has been taken ill so their father sells them and they are then separated, one is bought by a Geisha house and the other one is taken to a different house. The one girl soon learns that she is to be trained as a Geisha and she will never see her sister again. She finally agrees to the training but when she upsets the house owner she is removed from school and has to resign to the fact she will only ever now be the owners slave. She is subjected to a very hard time form the eldest Geisha in the house and is treated very badly.
One day she meets the 'Chairman' who is kind to her and she falls for him but as she is only a girl she knows nothing will become of this but she is determined to become a Geisha and walk by his side. Luckily for her a lady, Vanessa comes along and asks her owner if she can take charge of her and be given 6 months for her to be trained fully and pay back the money she owes and then if she is successful she will belong to Vanessa.
Will Vanessa be able to turn Sayuri into a Geisha and set her free from her hard and bad owner or will she have to go back to the life of a servant. What will happen and just how far could Sayuri go if she was successful in becoming a Geisha.
I have to say that the beginning of the film did nothing for me as I thought it just showed the hurt and sorrow of a young girl who was torn away from her mother and sister and subjected to a hard a at times brutal childhood. Once the film had got past this part I was totally hooked and found it very educational as well as entertaining. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and how it dealt with telling of the plight of what the Geisha girls went through in the 1930's and how they had no choice but to become a Geisha. I will admit to being slightly thick and not knowing the true extent to what a Geisha girl was or did but this film really did teach me the true meaning of a Geisha.
I thought that the performance which Ziyi Zhang put in for the role of Sayuri was extremely good and she portrayed her emotions and feeling very well on the screen and I thoroughly believable in her character. I also thought that the young actress who played her as a girl was also excellent. Overall I though that all of the actors and actresses played their parts very well and there was not a single weak character in this film. Their presence on screen was very good and they all worked well together.
I thought that the setting for the film was amazing and it showed me so much more to China which I was not aware of. I enjoyed seeing the amazing Temples and views over the mountains and thought that they all fitted very well with the setting and story. The other Geisha girls played their roles brilliantly and I was amazed at how they managed to walk in such stupid shoes and what they had to endure and suffer in the way of their costumes just to look as they did. I think the actresses all deserve awards for wearing such punishing clothes. They all looked very authentic though.
The music was surprisingly great. It is not the sort of music I would normally opt to listen to but it suited the film and fitted in very well. It added to the emotions and tension in the film and help very much with the telling of the story. It was able to help the storyline getting me to fell the emotions it was truing to put across and it worked very well. One minute I was feeling sorry for the girl and the next I was angry with her for not standing up for herself. Also it made me fell so many other emotions and this for me added to the film.
I enjoyed the fact that I was not able to predict the ending of the film. I did have the story mapped put in my head and though that the ending was predictable but to my great surprise it did not work out that way which I was so pleased about as it gave me something else to think about and consider in the story.
The DVD which I have does have a few bonus features which include:-
Audio Commentary with Rob Marshall and John DeLuca
The World of a Geisha
The Look of a Geisha
Geisha Boot camp
Sayuri's Journey from Novel to Screen
I have not been able to watch these features yet but as soon as I have I will update this review for you.
This film was based on a novel which I have not yet read so I am unable to make any comparisons between the two but I am adding the book to my wish list so will be able to see what I make of it and how similar or different it really is from what the film puts across.
The running time of the film is 139 minutes which may seem long but I found the time just flew by and I was not finding I felt bored at any point or wished the film to move on. It has a 12 certificate as it does contain moderate sex scenes and emotional intensity. I would slightly agree with this rating but maybe feel it should even have been given a 15 certificate.
Me and hubby managed to get out DVD for £4 in Tesco which I feel is a great price for such a moving and powerful film. I would give this film 4 stars but hubby says that this is the best film he has seen for a long time and he would definitely give it 5 stars. As I am unable to give it 4 ½ stars I will go with my hubby and give it the full 5.
I do recommend this film to all.
Based on the story retold by Arthur Golden, the film was released on DVD in 2005 and we bought it as soon as it came out having enjoyed it so much at the cinema.
At the beginning of the film Chiyo and her big sister Satsu are sold to a man by her poor fisherman father when her mother is dying and we follow their lives from this point forward.
They are taken to Kyoto, seperated and sold to different Geisha houses (Okiya), Satsu is not seen as pretty enough to be a 'proper' geisha and ends up living in a lower-level seedier geisha house where they actually do sell sex.
In a way Chiyo is luckier and starts as a maid in her okiya but is disliked by the 'main' Geisha who lives there and rules the roost; Hatsumomo.
At first they try to run away but realising her sister isn't coming to meet her Chiyo slumps over a bridge sobbing, a kindly man comforts her and buys her cherry ice, she see's the company he keeps - glamorous Geisha girls and from that second onwards her primary aim in life is to become one so she too can spend time with this man...This part is relevant for later I promise.
The 'mother' of the house see's promise in the girl with the watery eyes (she has pale blue eyes, very unusual for her colouring) Chiyo is sent to Geisha school but is then pulled out when Hatsumomo sets her up for stealing, this ruins her chances of becoming what she dreams of; a fully fledged Geisha.
Hatsumomo knows that Chiyo will one day be a threat to her as she is stunning even as a little girl and this is why she tries to get her thrown out of the okiya.
A rival geisha of Hatsumomo; Mameha also see's Chiyo's potential and agrees to help her realise her dream. She renames Chiyo as Sayuri and then trains her as her protege in the arts and practice of a Geisha. Mameha teaches Sayuri all about the arts and how one special man will buy her virginity (her danna) and he will remain close to her throughout her life but she will also need to 'entertain' others.
Throughout these days, months and years she is still thinking of the man on the bridge, he is after all the reason she became a Geisha. She has kept the handkerchief he gave her that day and thinks she is in love with him.
Will they ever meet again? Will he become her Danna? Will they live happily ever after?
The lives of the geisha are handled very sensitively throughout the film, nothing is portrayed as 'wrong' though obviously a lot of it is far from the ideal.
Sayuri goes through a lot of hard times and heartbreak but she is a strong girl, a lovable character.
The man she falls for is a great character too, I really feel for him too throughout the dramas. You always hope that he will come through and fight for his girl...but will he?
I was reduced to tears more than once, its beautifully told but heartbreaking at times as you want Sayuri to be happy.
You will be sick with envy though as all the actresses are absolutely beautiful; the girl who plays the part of Hatsumomo (a character maybe aged 20 in the film) is actually 43 and the actress who plays Sayuri is actually 27!
The scenery is fantastic too from the Geisha towns to the country side.
The costumes have surely won awards, the kimono's worn by the actresses are mouthwateringly gorgeous with such exquisite detailing in sumptuous fabrics and colours. I enjoyed every aspect of the film but it's worth watching just for the amazing costumes.
A touching story, I recommend this to everyone.
Running time: 139 minutes.
Special features: Audio commentary, 'The world of the geisha' , 'The look of a geisha' , 'Geisha Bootcamp' and 'Sayuris journey'.
Available for a bargain £2.99 from HMV.com.
Chiyo's(Suzuka Ohgo) pale grey eyes have seen much sadness: a dying mother, a father who is impoverished, grieving and forced to sell his children and her sister screaming as she is taken away from her side. All this tragedy before her tenth birthday. Despite the tears and the trauma, these eyes with their clear intensity, are her major asset and her only hope of freedom. These eyes, which change from slate grey to an electrifying blue give her an extraordinary, stunning beauty that is soon recognised by two women who run one of the many okiyas (homes for geishas) in Kyoto. They look upon Chiyo's beauty as an opportunity for making money for their okiya. With training, they believe she can become a geisha.
Very quickly, Chiyo's life changes. She is taught how to dance, play instruments, pour tea and sing. All these new things are colourful and exciting and executed in the typical geisha way. Chiyo is fascinated but at the same time she is plagued by thoughts of her sister, who has now been forced into prostitution and is distressed about the way she is treated by Hatsumomo (Gong Li), the geisha who rules their unassuming okiya. Hatsumomo is one of the most enchanting geishas in Kyoto but her behaviour towards Chiyo is unpleasant and cruel. She falsely accuses Chiyo which leads to punishment from Mother (Kaori Momoi), the pitiless woman who runs the okiya. As it is Hatsumomo's earnings that pay for the running of the okiya, everyone turns a blind eye to her cruelty and carry on disbelieving Chiyo.
Sad and unhappy, Chiyo tries to escape with her sister but their attempt fails and Mother who is not prepared to tolerate this behaviour takes Chiyo out of her geisha classes and punishes her by making her the okiya's servant. Chiyo's life which has seen many dark sides suddenly becomes even more sinister as she spends her days carrying out endless chores which sap her energy and take away any hopes of her ever being able to see her lost family again.
Until one day, when walking the streets of Kyoto she encounters a good looking stranger who shows her great kindnesss. Her spirit is uplifted and not long after another geisha, Mameha (Michelle Yeoh) who is from the same district and a rival of Hatsumomo takes pity on her and looks after her. At last Chiyo is filled with hope.
As Chiyo transmogrifies into a geisha and renamed Sayuri the next part of the film centres on the politics and stratagem of the geisha world, including trying to find a good danna (patron) and get a high bid for her mizuage (virginity). She is able to pay off her outstanding debts which bound her to the okiya and Mother. However, Hatsummomo is still out for revenge and Sayuri (Ziya Zhang) finds herself promised to a good friend (Nobu) of the man she covertly loves - The Chairman (Ken Watanabe). So much in her life has happened beyond her control but being able to work her way into the Chairman's life is like a powerful dream of her own come true.
Memoirs of a Geisha is based on the book by Arthur Golden which was released in 1997 under a cloud of controversy mainly because he broke the code of anonymity amongst geishas by revealing the main character's name. Having read the book, I would say that some elements of the story have been left out and the main characters have been altered slightly. For example; Sayuri doesn't seem as friendless and bereft of love in the book as she does in the film. However, conversely, Hatsumomo doesn't seem so much like a sly and mean spirited opponent, more like a cartoon character and Mother doesn't seem half as nasty and misshapen. Basically, the film is a little too sweet and the characters poorly developed.
You have to remember that this is set in the late 1920's and the subject of the film is human trafficing. Although Suyari's role isn't based on a real person, the events happened and there were plenty of women like Suyari. Women did live that simultaneously bleak and beautiful existence but because of the startling imagery, lighting, costumes and staging which is so amazingly colourful and dazzling, you sometimes forget the truth of what the story is about.
I would have liked the film to have been more realistic and not as glizzy. Some scenes were rushed and didn't give the viewer enough time to understand the rituals of geisha life and I felt that the characters weren't allowed to feel their grief, longings and disappointments.
At the time the film was realised, there was some controversy as the film is a Japanese story yet the three main actresses were Chinese. The actual film set was created in California and the language used was mostly English with Japanese accents. It is no surprise to me that an American production team didn't pay any attention to actually recognising the diversities of Asian culture. In Imperial China, geishas did exist but these women took on a different role. They entertained men by singing, playing instruments, painting, playing chess and calligraphy. They lived in brothels but did not sell their bodies, only their artistic talents. I am sure the film would have been offensive to some Chinese people as the portrayal of a geisha in the film by a Chinese actress would be construed as one of a prostitute. Putting these issues to one side, I have to say that the acting is absolutely superb and I cannot fault it in anyway.
However, I feel that Sayuri's quest for love in the film has a strong American feel to it and is definitely "soapy" and overplayed. I am sure most geisha's wouldn't be as obsessed with finding true love - a good, kind patron would do very nicely.
I also think that if the film had been located in the North East of England, it would have been classed as a pot boiler along the lines of Catherine Cookson's Tilly Trotter but because of its exotic location and context, it acquired a status beyond its merit.
What saves the film for me is the beautifiul cinematography. This film is a work of moving art - a massive feast of shapes and colours. I love the rooftop scenes and the way the inside of the okayis are filmed. The camera really captures the feeling of confinement. Shimmering silks and sumptious velvets remind us of a lost world that was seductive but cruel.
It is also a fable of friendship, emulation, expectation, despair, choice, love, duty, lust, traditions and lost emotions.
Having said that, I would have liked a little more intrigue and I only think that would be possible by telling the story accurately and not leaving out the darker shades. I guess that's Rob Marshall's way but this film isn't a theatrical piece like Chicago - it is based on true events and would have benefitted from a bit more truth!
Running Time - 145 minutes
Classification UK 12A
Language - English/Japanese
* This review will be posted on other sites*
An absolutely beautiful film! It gave a true insight into the life of geishas, which I previously knew little about. The storyline was wonderful and the acting was superb from all the characters.
The plot itself is that of a young girl who is bought as a child by the owner of one geisha house. It follows her getting closer and closer to her dream of becoming a geisha, despite many obstructions. She eventually becomes what she has always wanted to be, only to have it taken from her during the war. Years later, she takes up her position again and also gains the love of the man she has based her whole wish upon.
There are some scenes of a sexual nature, so probably not best suited to children. The 12 rating definately applies here!
A truely stunning film, and one I would highly recommend to others. Be prepared for tears, as there are several heart wrenching scenes.
Winner of 3 Oscars for Costume design, Art Direction, Cinematography.
Who will like this film:
Those who want to learn about the historical importance of Japan and the way in which women were bought to be playthings for men.
Rob Marshall, director of Chicago (2002).
Zyzi Zhang (House of Flying daggers), Ken Watanabe (The last Samuri) and Michelle Yeoh (Crouching tiger, Hidden Dragon).
This film is based on the international best- selling novel by Arthur Golden. Sold by her poverty stricken father, as a child, before World War 2, she is sent to work in a Geisha house where she is to grow and then expected to become a Geisha herself. She is to become the legendary Geisha, Sayuri.
The amazing colours and attention to detail within this film.
As she's snatched from her home (In the very beginning)
*Audio Commentary with Rob Marshall and John DeLuca.
*The world of the Geisha.
* The look of the Geisha.
* Geisha bootcamp.
* Sayuri's journey: from the novel to the screen.
The soundtrack feauture a whole host of amazing traditional Japanese music.
Sayuri: At the temple, there is a poem called "Loss" carved into the stone. It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read Loss, only feel it.
I really enjoyed this although, its definatly not one for children i think it should have been rated 15 not 12, but i do recommend this film.
I watch Memoirs of a Geisha in the cinema in 2006 when it was first released. Immediately, I know I want to have a copy of the dvd for my collection.
Memoirs of a Geisha is an adaptation of the novel by Arthur Golden. The film is about Chiyo Sakamoto, sold to a life of servitude at nine, rise to become one of the most popular geisha in Japan. Chiyo Sakamoto was sold to a geisha where she learned the art of becoming a geisha. However, her life was made difficult by the bullying and jealousy of a senior geisha, Hatsumomo. Chiyo have secretly love the chairman, who have shown kindness to her at a young age. As Chiyo grown to a young lady, her only wish was to be close to the chairman.
Chiyo became a famous geisha under the name of Sayuri. She was guided and trained by her mentor, Mamahe who is arched rival of Hatsumomo. Her popularity and prosperity was stop short by the outbreak of World War 11. When the war ends, Chiyo was asked to resurrect her role as a geisha to entertain the American soldiers.
I like this film for its storyline and getting to know the Japanese culture, history and the sights. It was a lovely sight watching young Chiyo running through a row of sakura ( cheery blossom ). The film also give a better understanding about the actual role of a geisha.
There was a controversy that most of the female main casts are of chinese origin. It is properly because of their international exposure. Michelle Yeoh as Mameha was in one of the James Bond film, Gong Li and ZhangZiyi have also acted in several American films.
Ziyi Zhang as Sayuri/Chiyo Sakamoto
Gong Li as Hatsumomo
Ken Watanabe as The Chairman
Michelle Yeoh as Mameha
Koji Yakusho as Nobu
Youki Kudoh as Pumpkin
Kaori Momoi as Mother
Tsai Chin as Auntie
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as The Baron
Randall Duk Kim as Dr. Crab
Mako as Sakamoto
Kenneth Tang as The General
Thomas Ikeda as Mr. Bekku
Suzuka Ohgo as young Chiyo
Zoe Weizenbaum as Young Pumpkin
Shizuko Hoshi as Narrator
Directed by Rob Marshall
Produced by Lucy Fisher
Memoirs of a Geisha have also won Academy awards for best achievement in Art Direction, best achievement in Cinematography and best achievement in Costume Design.
The film runs for 145 mins and the dvd also include 2 hours of special features.
The film is set in world war two Japan and follows the story of two sisters who are sold by their father due to family problems; pretty extreme I think you'll agree. The girls are called 'Sayuri' and 'Pumkin' and are taken to geisha houses where they are to work as slaves. Unfortunately soon after leaving their family the pair are split up, the first geisha house they are taken too only wants the younger and prettier 'Sayuri', 'Pumkin' is taken to another geisha house somewhere in Gion, but neither sister knows where they are. The basis of the start of the film is the two sisters' quest to try and find one another, which the people of the geisha houses are not happy about and try to stop at every opportunity. Treated like a slave and made to clean and prepare the house all day 'Sayuri' is envious of the Geisha's and longs to become one herself. Knowing this one of the older and most respected geishas in the house 'Hatsumomo' uses 'Sayuri' and gets her to do things that she herself would not dare in return for information on the ware bouts of her younger sister. One of these acts includes the ruining of an expensive Kimono by drawing all over it with black ink, for which 'Sayiri' is punished and beaten.
One day when 'Sayuri' leaves the house to go for a walk she sees a very handsome man who gives her candy, we later find out he is called ' the chairman'; 'Sayuri' falls in love with him and dreams that one day the pair will be together. After being a slave for a few years at the age of fifteen or sixteen she is greeted by 'Mameyha' (Michelle Yeon) an older lady who is still a top geisha herself. She sends 'Sayuri' to school where she learns how to become a geisha which is thrilled at. It turns out that 'Sayuri' is very much sort after and soon becomes one of the most recognised geishas in town. 'Hatsumomo' finds out about this and makes it her personal mission to portray 'Sayuri' in as bad a light as possible to all the eligible bachelors. 'Sayuri' loses contact with her sister and Hatsumomo adopts her and immediately turns her against her.
After attending many prestigious events in order to flaunt herself in front of as many rich young men as possible, 'Mameyha' tells 'Sayuri' that she is ready. She secretly gives small boxes to many of the men she likes and admires telling them that there will shortly be an auction for 'her first night' (her virginity). 'Sayuri' hopes the chairman places the highest bid, but he doesn't and she has to go with another gentleman called 'the doctor'. He pays the highest amount ever received for this ritual and in return 'Sayuri' is given the Okia (geisha house). Hearing of this and realising that she will now be working under her; 'Hatsumomo' sets fire to the Okia and burns it down. Things go from bad to worse for 'Sayuri' as word gets round that the Americans are planning to drop atomic bombs (Hiroshima and Nagasaki), so everybody is evacuated away from the towns and cities and into the countryside. The chairman manages to get her a job where she cleans and washes clothing in lakes all-day, which she has to do for four years before one day he returns. She is asked to come back to work as the beautiful geisha she once was to entertain some of the top American generals, but is she up to it after so long? - she has lost a lot of her good looks and charm because the experience has affected her so badly. When she returns she meets her sister again for the first time in years, she has become an alcoholic slut and the two don't get on. The story continues......
I thought the film was very enjoyable to watch and the two hours flew by in no time. The characters in the film are great and the storyline is very easy to get into. Although it concentrates mainly around the romance between Sayuri and the chairman, it is an emotional film and shows the reality of world war two Japan. It is also fascinating to see the difference between the two sisters when they are reunited upon their return to Gion. Under the wing of Hatsumomo the older sister really has it in for Sayuri and makes her life hell, embarrassing her and creating awkward situations on many occasions.
If you like films with great storylines, with many twists and themes of romance and betrayal then I'm sure this is a film which you'll enjoy. I have heard that the book is apparently better than the film, however I recommend the DVD enormously. It is available to buy online from around £5.00.
Director - Rob Marshall (Chicago)
Released - 2005
Runtime - 139 minutes approximately
Certificate 12 - contains moderate sex scenes and emotional intensity
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed.
(This review is also posted on Ciao under the same name).
This film tells the story of a little Japanes girl named Chiyo and her life as she grows up in Japan.
It starts with her father selling her and her sister and they are split up and go live in separate okiyas. They meet up once but never see each other again.
Chiyo spends the next few years being a maid in the okiya. Hatsumomo is the star of the okiya and makes it lots of money but she has fallen in love which is forbidden. Chiyo sees her several times with her boyfriend and Hatsumomo is threatened by this so goes about trying to destroy Chiyo.
One day when she is sad she meets the Chairman, who changes her life forever. He buys her a cherry ice and remarks on her blue eyes, gives her his handkerchief and sends her on her way and this stays with Chiyo and she vows to herself she will meet him again.
I dont want to give too much away but Chiyo eventually becomes a Geisha named Sayuri and she is the toast of the town. She does meet up with the Chairman again but then WWII begins and she goes away for several years. They meet up again.
This is one of my favourite films. It has a fantastic, haunting at times soundtrack and the cinematography is beautiful. The cast is relatively unknown which I think was a good idea as I dont think it would have worked as good with an A list cast.
I havent read the book so I cant really compare but feel this is a stand out film and everybody should see it.
Memoirs of a Geisha was released in 2005. It won three Oscars and awards for costume design, art direction and cinematography. Rightly so! This is a captivating and intriguing story, based on the novel of the same name by Arthur Golden.
This historical epic was directed by Rob Marshall, award winning director of 'Chicago' and produced by Lucy Fisher, Douglas Wick and Steven Spielberg.
It tells the story of a child taken away from her poor family and sent to work in a Geisha house. The child is selected to train as a Geisha and blossoms into the very popular and respected Geisha, Sayuri. She is beautiful and accomplished in the arts, but also intelligent.
Sayuri captivates the imagination of many powerful men but there is only one who holds a place in her heart. He seems to be way beyond her reach but that doesn't stop her loving him.
The film stars:
The fantastic soundtrack is by John Williams.
Costume designer Colleen Atwood does a fabulous job with styles and colours to produce authentic looking designs. The care put into the designs is very obvious as you watch the film.
The DVD runs for 139 minutes and offers a number of special features.:
Audio commentary by Rob Marshall, Director.
The World of the Geisha,
The look of the Geisha,
Geisha boot camp,
From novel to screen.
The extra features set the historical background for the film and explain the difficulties in re-writing and producing the novel to a film.
This film is suitable for age twelve up and contains what the film censor's office call moderate sex and emotional intensity. Personally, I would have thought it unsuitable for most twelve year old. A degree of emotional maturity is needed to understand some aspects of the film.
Overall this was an excellent film but it was spoilt for me because I had already read the book. There are things in the book that didn't get much coverage in the film. For example, the book gives more of a background to Sayuri's roots. Some detail was lost in the making of the film. If you haven't read the book, don't. Watch the film and then read it as you will appreciate it more that way round.
Chicago director Rob Marshall's pretty but empty (or pretty empty) film has all the elements of an Oscar contender: solid adaptation (from Arthur Golden's bestseller), beautiful locale, good acting, lush cinematography. But there's something missing at the heart, which leaves the viewer sucked in, then left completely detached from what's going on. It's hard to find fault with the fascinating story, which traces a young girl's determination to free herself from the imprisonment of scullery maid to geisha, then from the imprisonment of geisha to a woman allowed to love. Chiyo (Suzuka Ohgo), a young girl with curious blue eyes, is sold to a geisha house and doomed to pay off her debt as a cleaning girl until a stranger named The Chairman (Ken Watanabe) shows her kindness. She is inspired to work hard and become a geisha in order to be near the Chairman, with whom she has fallen in love. An experienced geisha (Michelle Yeoh) chooses to adopt her as an apprentice and to use as a pawn against her rival, the wicked, legendary Hatsumomo (Gong Li). Chiyo (played as an older woman by Ziyi Zhang), now renamed Sayuri, becomes the talk of the town, but as her path crosses again and again with the Chairman's, she finds the closer she gets to him the further away he seems. Her newfound "freedom" turns out to be trapping, as men are allowed to bid on everything from her time to her virginity. Some controversy swirled around casting Chinese actresses in the three main Japanese roles, but Zhang, Yeoh and Gong in particular ably prove they're the best for the part. It's admirable that all the actors attempted to speak Japanese-accented English, but some of the dialogue will still prove difficult to understand; perhaps it contributes to some of the emotion feeling stilted. Geisha has all the ingredients of a sweeping, heartbreaking epic and follows the recipe to a T, but in the end it's all dressed up with no place to go.--Ellen A. Kim