Letting a photographer direct a movie... BIG MISTAKE!
It's painfully clear that all effort in this film was directed toward cinematography and very little attention to everything else. Most obvious mistake is the miscast of the entire female cast. Many of them are very experienced and capable, but they all seemed out of place, and having an amateur director certainly didn't help. The story is a very common Geisha story, and characters behaved very inconsistently, thus making it extremely difficult for me to connect with the heroine.
This movie's theme is "modern prostitution", but still, it was annoying how Tsuchiya Anna's lead character kept talking like a female motorcycle gang member while everyone else spoke in old Japanese fitting for this setting. This movie has very beautiful vibrant colors, similar to Zhang Yimou's "Hero", but viewers can easily tell it's filmed in a cheap, elaborate set. This is one of those jidaigeki made specifically for foreign audience: "Look at the colors, beautiful geisha, and exoticness!"
The two sequences with Shiina Ringo's insert songs were really nice though, in mid-section of the movie. I actually really disliked her music before, but they fit perfectly in this movie. Although Ninagawa Mika is a complete failure as a film director, she has a major potential in PV (music video) production.
I believe the story felt very plain because the director failed to focus on character development, and because Tsuchiya Anna's unconvincing acting as an Oiran. Had this film been directed by a known Jidaigeki director with any other known actress in Japan, it would've had the potential to become a masterpiece.
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