Analog Thoughts on a Digital Age

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Movie Review;"Memoirs Of A Geisha" (2005)

you know you want meWhen the reviews first came out for Memoirs Of A Geisha, I was very dissapointed. The 35% Rotten rating from kinda gave me the impression that Rob Marshall (Chicago) didn't really do a bang-up job directing the film adaptaion of the immensely popular Arthur Golden Novel. Well, I saw it the other day, and I can honestly say, it wasn't all that bad.

Chiyo (Suzuka Ohgo, Zhang Ziyi) was sold as a little girl to a geisha house. She and her sister were both taken away because their father could no longer support them and take care of their sick mother at the same time. Chiyo worked as a slave in this house and was exposed to a world she would, in the future, be a very significant part of. the world of the Geisha.

In her youth Chiyo meets a suave older man known only as The Chairman (Ken Watanabe)on a bridge and instantly falls in love with him, affirming her life goal to become a popular Geisha "to have a part of his world".
Chiyo is then taken under the tutelage of Mameha (Michelle Yeoh) and is trained in the ways of the Geisha and soon metamorphosizes into the most sought after Geisha in Kyoto. much to the dismay of her rival Hatsumomo (Gong Li). Chiyo's name is changes to Nitta Sayuri, and her goals in life are fulilled. She still longs, however fro the man who inspired her to be a Geisha in the first place, The Chairman. Unfortunately, a Geisha is not to fall in love.

Many critics flame this movie essentially for one reason. It's a movie set in Japan where the dialogue spoken is English...with a japanese accent. Also, apparently the Chinese community is furious of the part taken by their countrymen (Zhang Ziyi, and Gong Li specifically) in a movie glorifying japanese culture as that Japan has long been in Chinase pet peeve list(with Japan having a history ofinvading their country, destroying their villages and raping their women and such, including in World War II). This movie had been under fire even before it got released. Ultimately The film didn't get much box office moolah simply because it wasn't really that good.

lampara sa gasera: very dangerous

But don't get me wrong. I liked it. Aside from the fact that I want to marry Zhang Ziyi, there are a few aspects of the movie that were overlooked or perhaps, ignored. I may not be a professional film critic, but I think most people including a lot of the critics forgot one really simple detail, that perhaps would be crucial to the overall judgement of the film... Its an American movie.

It is not to be compared to the works of Yoji Yamada and Akira Kurosawa. They were very good film makers who made movies with Japanese sensibility and the japanese audience in mind. The world market is all just an accidental market. they did not intend on making it so that Finnish, Norwegians or Americans (or Filipinos, for that matter) would like it, much less relate to it. Then again their movies are critically accepted and lauded simply because they cross territorial boundaries and are 'unique' to foreigners sick of their own movies.

Geisha was, in the first place, written by a man from Chattanooga, Tennessee.Teh director, from Madison, Wisconsin. Which I may add, are places very culturally different from early 1930's Kyoto. Im not saying Mr. Golden and doesn't know his stuff. he may probably be one of the worlds foremost experts on the geisha culture out of Japan for all I know. But the point is. They're American. He wrote the book from the perspective of an outsider. Mixing American sentiments of having a dream and doing what it takes to make it come true, and living it, with a culture that is both mystical and romantic. Its an American movie set in Japan with English dialogue. A movie about American sentiments set in japanese conditions in a tone which can be considered Western-friendly.

Now, if viewed in this context, you would probably enjoy it about 45% more. It may not be breathtakingly brilliant, but it gets the job done. Plus, I think the scene where Chiyo suns through a corridor of orange arches is classic and is one of my favorite scenes of the year.

Im off to see the wizard...

Rocketboy's Rating: ***(3 out of 5)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

aside from good production and costume design, which both pale in comparison to real chinese epics, geisha is forgettable. honestly.

4:22 PM

Blogger the rocketboy said...

Its true about the costume and production thing. There is no way they can make it look authentic having shot the entire freaking thing in a Hollywood soundstage.
Compatring it to chinese epics is kind of a stretch though. there is no way hollywood can make it look THAT good. heheheh.

5:09 AM


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