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Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)

PG-13  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  23 December 2005 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 114,948 users   Metascore: 54/100
Reviews: 543 user | 233 critic | 38 from Metacritic.com

Nitta Sayuri reveals how she transcended her fishing-village roots and became one of Japan's most celebrated geisha.



(screenplay), (book)
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Won 3 Oscars. Another 25 wins & 36 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Thomas Ikeda ...
Hatsumomo (as Gong Li)
David Okihiro ...
Shamisen Teacher
Miyako Tachibana ...
Dance Teacher
Kotoko Kawamura ...


In 1929 an impoverished nine-year-old named Chiyo from a fishing village is sold to a geisha house in Kyoto's Gion district and subjected to cruel treatment from the owners and the head geisha Hatsumomo. Her stunning beauty attracts the vindictive jealousy of Hatsumomo, until she is rescued by and taken under the wing of Hatsumomo's bitter rival, Mameha. Under Mameha's mentorship, Chiyo becomes the geisha named Sayuri, trained in all the artistic and social skills a geisha must master in order to survive in her society. As a renowned geisha she enters a society of wealth, privilege, and political intrigue. As World War II looms Japan and the geisha's world are forever changed by the onslaught of history. Written by dumpster_cakes

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for mature subject matter and some sexual content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

23 December 2005 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Memorias de una geisha  »

Box Office


$85,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$682,504 (USA) (9 December 2005)


$213,303 (South Africa) (26 May 2006)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


There was much discussion about the traditional Geisha hairstyles of the time period and the filmmakers decided to give each character a specific hairstyle that was slightly symbolic of her character. Pumpkin's hair was slightly over-exaggerated with many ornaments to indicate her character's desperation to succeed. Hatsumomo's hair when loose was wild, while her up-do was set with sections of hair dangling out to indicate her character's disregard for tradition, and her loose morals. Mameha's hair was side swept with simple buns or generally loose over one shoulder to give her a simple elegant appearance. Sayuri's hair was always a simple style either in a bun, a braid or a less exaggerated style to indicate her natural beauty and less need of elaborate styles. See more »


When Chiyo's virginity is discussed, you can see Mother smoke cigarettes (in a holder). During the scene the length of the cigarette varies. See more »


Sayuri Narration: If your honorable sister tells you to cut your leg, you cut your leg.
See more »


Referenced in Tetsuko no heya 30nen special (2005) See more »


Genroku Hanami Odori
Written by Shôjiro Kineya
Arranged by Masakazu Yoshizawa
Performed by Hiromi Hashibe
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Duel in the Rising Sun
13 December 2005 | by (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

Looking over previous comments here, it is clear that this is a very polarizing movie experience, one that seems to put "Syriana" to shame in that realm. Director Rob Marshall has taken a best selling novel and turned out a feature film that it appears some people love and some absolutely hate. Count me in the first category, but allow me to indulge the critics, too.

First, this isn't a typical Hollywood film. Despite popular western misconceptions about Geishas, there's no sex, almost no violence and beyond that, there's nearly two and a half hours of women's problems that many men may find hard to relate to. This is not "Desperate Housewives" or even "All my Children." This is about deceit, treachery and rivalries as much as it is about a little girl who gets sold into bondage by her impoverished Japanese family. Its also about a lifelong search for love in a society in which people apparently can't just step up and make frank declarations of devotion to one another. This movie is in a word "complicated" and that is going to turn some American movie goers off.

But not all Asian film fans are raving about this movie either, some thinking it is a very superficial look at Japnese customs and others incensed that a movie that's about an important Japanese tradition should star three Chinese actresses. I cannot comment on either topic, since I know little or nothing about Japanese tradition and I don't know why Ziyi Zhang, Michelle Yoeh and Gong Li were cast. They have been seen before by American audiences, but are hardly film stars in this country, so it wasn't as if they were going to draw in tons of fans on their names alone.

The only thing I can think of is, all three are fine actresses and they more than proved that in this film. If Gong Li does not get a best supporting actress nomination, there's no justice. And Zhang should probably get a crack at best actress for her work, as well.

All three just light up the screen.

But, I can understand in this age of political correctness, how some would be offended by the casting and how others might complain about the handling of the Japanese subject matter.

All I can say is, movie makers face trade offs and one is either targeting your film to a mass audience (and in America, that means a generally poorly educated audience) or "narrow casting" your film to people very well acquainted with the topic who will swoop down on any flaw. But that, when dealing with a topic like Japanese geisha culture, is a pretty small audience in America, too small to generate the kind of box office a film like this needs to pull in to pay for itself. From a purely Anglo, American, unschooled in Japanese culture standpoint, I think Marshall made good decisions. I hope he has not slighted Japanese culture too much, but I think he has made a suspenseful, captivating, enchanting film that does something a lot of films haven't in recent years.

He gave us a complex central character we can pull for throughout the film and for that, I thank him.

"Memoirs of a Geisha" ranks among my five best films of the year thus far, and deserves a best picture nomination.

402 of 531 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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quick question on the book and similar films to this? midi_1234
culturally clueless film based off a culturally clueless book. chrisl84notpia
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