Monday, February 20, 2006

Memoirs of a Geisha

Take: This movie is better than I thought it would be.

Lesson learned: If you’re a geisha, the only thing that will treat you worse than a Japanese man is another geisha.

Observations: The only fellow who thought enough to ask Sayuri (the main character) if she wanted to have sex was the American.

More observations: It sucks to be a geisha.

About the production: This film looks pretty good, though the camera moves a bit much in places. Prewar Kyoto should be an interesting enough setting to leave the camera in one place and soak it in.

Criticism about the casting: This film caused some anger in China because three of the biggest stars of China were portraying Japanese women.

Reception in Japan: They ignored it.

Criticism about the movie: Some of have criticized the film for not capturing the depth of the geisha world, but that seems a bit unfair. The geisha world is not very deep – not in any western sense. Saying that the film didn’t accurately depict the period is one thing, but expecting something that never existed is something else.

Casting: It was odd hearing some of these actresses speak English – but it didn’t really interfere with the film.

Ziyi Zhang – she’s the big Chinese star these days. I’m not the biggest fan, but she’s usually pretty good. Her blue contacts freaked me out in this movie.

Michelle Yeoh – If I didn’t know better, she might be Japanese. She cuts a handsome graceful figure that seemed fitting for the part.

Gong Li – is the best actress around. She can play a bitch like nobody’s business. She does so here. She’s the reason I wanted to see this picture in the first place.

Koji Yakusho and Ken Watanabe – had good chemistry. You might have recognized Ken in Tampopo. He wasn’t big then (ie - small part), but now he is. Koji is like the Jimmy Stewart of Japanese cinema. He’s one of the few Japanese stars that is entirely in film, not TV. He’s got a great face for being a Jimmy Stewart everyman type, though in this picture they made his face deformed. Still, he’s one of those guys who makes every film he’s in better.

Other comments: there are similarities between this film and another Gong Li film, Raise the Red Lantern, which was just released on DVD. While Geisha isn’t bad, Red Lantern is a masterpiece. If a fella was wanting to rent something for his wife or girlfriend, go with Geisha, but if you wanted to see something that would knock your socks off, rent Raise the Red Lantern.


Edward Copeland said...

Yeoh was actually born in Malaysia and spoke English and Malay before she ever learned Chinese.

Jeffrey Hill said...

acknowledged. My apologies to Ms. Yeoh for the error.