In the 1920s, 9-year-old Chiyo gets sold to a geisha house. There, she is forced into servitude, receiving nothing in return until the house's ruling hierarchy determines if she is of high enough quality to service the clientele -- men who visit and pay for conversation, dance and song. After rigorous years of training, Chiyo becomes Sayuri, a geisha of incredible beauty and influence. Life is good for Sayuri, but World War II is about to disrupt the peace.Written by
The white material that the geisha slept on was rice flour. Having a geisha's hair done was a long and arduous process, so they were taught to sleep on a raised pillow, and rice flour was placed around their head to remind them not to fall off the pillow. If they did, it meant returning to the hairdresser to have your hair done all over again. See more »
After her first encounter with the Chairman, Chiyo is shown running from the hanamachi of Gion, through the red Torii gate trails of Fushimi Inari to a shrine where she gives coins as an offering. In reality, not only is Fushimi Inari several miles from Gion, and therefore an inconceivable location for a small girl to make a round trip to on foot, its gates form a circuitous path on the side of a mountain and do not lead anywhere outside the shrine itself. See more »
At the temple, there is a poem called "Loss" carved into the stone. It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read Loss, only feel it.
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Can a group of American men and Chinese actresses render the world of a Japanese geisha? The answer is yes, with stunning beauty and regrettable flaws.
Truth be told, this movie was not as bad as its trailer led me to expect it to be. It had a story to tell (although it crumbles in the end),images to show, and material to present. There were ample displays of exquisite beauty -- the trailing tails of silk kimonos, the subtle allure of hand gestures, and the captivating scene of kabuki dance theater ...
On the other hand, the American director was not able to pull the Japanese out of Chinese actresses. (This movie was so crowded by famous Chinese idols that I found myself inadvertently searching for Joan Chen among the cast.) To be fair, all three main actors (Gong Li in particular) show strong performances that made me sympathetic to Rob Marshall's choices. However, they remain utterly Chinese throughout this movie. The look and accent are not the only problems. They lacked the kind of extreme femininity and excessive felicity of the delicately mechanical gesture and movements of traditional Japanese ladies you see in custom dramas of Japanese production. (Michelle Yeoh seems to be the only one trying a little bit of those, but it did not quite work for some reason.)
So, let me re-address the question: Can a group of American men and Chinese actresses render the world of a geisha? The answer, I guess, really depends on what you are looking for. If you would like a little bit of delight from an aesthetically pleasing picture with a dubious authenticity and realism, this movie delivers it. I would not say Rob Marshall failed completely. Memoirs of a Geisha is not the first, nor the last, movie that subjects another culture to the crude lens of American exoticism. It definitely is not the worst one.
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