During China's Tang dynasty the emperor has taken the princess of a neighboring province as wife. She has borne him two sons and raised his eldest. Now his control over his dominion is complete, including the royal family itself.
A loose adaptation of Hamlet, "The Night Banquet" is set in an empire in chaos. The Emperor, the Empress, the Crown Prince, the Minister and the General all have their own enemies they would like to finish off at a night banquet.
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
When Mameha declines from attending the Baron's party, Hatsumomo viciously asks 'taking care of a little nuisance?'. While never fully divulged in the film, the book goes onto explain that Mameha had gone for an abortion. See more »
When Chiyo/Sayuri and Pumpkin are listening on Mrs. Nitta and Mameha's discussion of Chiyo's future, and the camera zooms in on the girls' eyes peering through the crack in the door, Chiyo's eyes move very fast and you can clearly see Chiyo's blue contact, since it does not move with the rest of her eye. See more »
[turns to see the Chairman standing in front of her]
Chairman, where is Nobu-san?
He won't be coming.
Is something wrong?
He knows what happened. It is not in his nature to forgive.
Chairman, what happened on the island...
Please, you don't have to explain.
But I have shamed myself so deeply, past all forgiveness.
No! I'm the one who must be forgiven.
I do not understand.
Perhaps... if you had only known the truth.
[...] See more »
The best film I've seen all year, and I've seen some great films.
This is the most unfairly maligned film of the year. Some critics took it upon themselves to be the defenders of Japanese culture (without fully researching their arguments) and, in the process, betrayed their own racism. "The film is inauthentic because the actresses do not wear matronly bouffants," one said. Riiiiiight. Matronly bouffants are a Western stereotype! But in any case, some of them do and some don't! THAT'S authenticity. I guess critics wouldn't know that writing reviews without seeing the film or walking out long before it's over (some, such as Jeff Wells, do).
Anyway, it's a fantastic film and more than deserving of multiple Academy award nominations - which it may not get thanks to the fact that so many people decided they wanted to use the film as the sacrificial lamb for a half-baked debate about international politics, rather consider that pan-Asian casting for major roles is NOTHING new (it's true of House of Flying Daggers, The Joy Luck Club and even Crouching Tiger) and that this film's production might represent international cooperation at its best.
Look out for Gong Li and Youki Kudoh in RICHLY developed supporting roles. The supporting males, while obviously not as well developed since they spend less time in the geisha quarters, still give incredible performances. Ken Watanabe was excellent, but I particularly enjoyed the performance of the actor playing Nobu. Oprah is right about the sets and costumes; they (amongst other things) make you want to savor every moment of the film. Some people have argued that the brilliant colors make it seem like some sort of Orientalist fantasy. Truth is that this would only be the case if we saw a departure from a more sedate West to a flamboyant East; instead, the film opens in a rather sedate part of Japan and then takes us to the more colorful geisha district (which introduces this fascinating paradox of great suffering in a milieu of tremendous beauty). We know from Chicago that it's simply Rob Marshall's aesthetic to make everything the height of beauty, even if it's a slum. God forbid ENTERTAINMENT CIRCLES should be presented as visually spectacular! The film is by turns funny, moving and, yes, thrilling. Gasps in the audience for the film's third act gave way to sniffles. Ziyi Zhang really managed any language difficulties well; her face has this ripple effect when she's emoting. It's stunning to behold. If I were voting for the Oscars, I'd definitely give her a nomination at the very least. And homegirl can dance, too! Her performance and the film itself are not boring at all; audience members laughed when she was trying to be funny and sighed when she was suffering. IMO, too much happens in the film for it to get boring; there's a strong balance between the rivalries, the details about geisha entertainment and the romance. In the final scene, it all comes full circle. I won't tell you how. See for yourself.
My #1 film of the year. Brokeback Mountain, Chronicles of Narnia, Howl's Moving Castle, King Kong and Grizzly Man aren't far behind.
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