Memoirs of a Geisha - Movie Review/Article Thread

Post Reply
User avatar
IG Team
Administration Team
Administration Team
Posts: 3290
Joined: Tue Jun 14, 2016 2:53 pm

Memoirs of a Geisha - Movie Review/Article Thread

Post by IG Team » Sun Oct 02, 2016 12:15 am

Have you read a review or article about Memoirs of a Geisha movie? It doesn't matter if it was good or bad - post a link to it here.

Eventually I'll have all of these put up on the Memoirs of a Geisha Movie info page and the FAQ.

User avatar
IG Team
Administration Team
Administration Team
Posts: 3290
Joined: Tue Jun 14, 2016 2:53 pm

Re: Memoirs of a Geisha - Movie Review/Article Thread

Post by IG Team » Sun Oct 02, 2016 12:19 am

I found this interesting one this morning:
Geisha's 'memoirs' have serious flaws
FILM REVIEW
SARAH KAUFMAN

SHIZUMI Manale is kneeling in a sea of brilliant silk. Yards and yards of costly hand-tinted and embroidered kimonos are spread before her on tatami mats. She unfolds them with devotional care; a flick of her wrists sends the fabric flowing across the floor.

Even to an inexpert eye, the craftsmanship is obvious: one kimono, subtly textured with ink-black silk bursting with bright chrysanthemums edged in gold thread. Others in pastel shades feature patterns with delicately blurred outlines, as if the images were rising from underwater. Shizumi picks up a corner, fondling its rose-petal softness. "You see - this is art," she says quietly. "It really is like a living thing. It's what we call the power of kimono. This is what Rob Marshall does not understand." .....
Click here to read it all:
http://news.scotsman.com/features.cfm?id=2458612005

User avatar
IG Team
Administration Team
Administration Team
Posts: 3290
Joined: Tue Jun 14, 2016 2:53 pm

Re: Memoirs of a Geisha - Movie Review/Article Thread

Post by IG Team » Sun Oct 02, 2016 12:23 am

Lady Luck:

That was a good article and despite my not being the "know-all" of geisha culture, I couldn't agree more. The movie met all my low expectations--from the acting(which was at once dull and phony) to the lack of authenticity. I wanted a movie that was far more faithful to details and could you blame me? Liza Dalby did consult with Rob Marshall........but was much of her knowlegde used? There's a lot more articles that can be found at this Rottentomatoes link: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/memoirs_of_a_geisha/.
Here's one of my favorite:
Ever been to Epcot Center at Disney World? I love the Japanese pavilion -- it's so exotic. It's exactly like being in Asia, you know, but without all the mess and inconvenience of traveling, and also there's no funny foreign people around. And there's this lady that sells red bean cakes right totally there (by the little booth with the disposable cameras with the old-timey-photographer Mickey Mouse on them). Yum. You should definitely check it out.

Or, if a trip to Orlando is too much hassle, just pop into Memoirs of a Geisha, cuz it's totally, like, Japanesey. Except what's really cool is that it's like those all-you-can-eat Asian buffets, where they've got a little bit of chow mein and a little bit of tempura -- mmm, deep-fried -- but nothing, like, too strange and yucky like sushi. Like, it's Asian enough to be cool, like Hello Kitty, but not so alien that you're like, Huh? It's so neat how director Rob Marshall (Chicago) cast, like, Chinese actors as the Japanese geisha girls and then -- and this is really neat part -- had them all speak American, so the movie wouldn't be too hard for people. Who wants to read at the movies, anyway, like what they have to do when the people in the movie don't talk normal? (Though maybe it would have been even better if Marshall had just hired regular people to play the characters, because it's hard sometimes to understand what they're saying. It's almost like they don't really know how to speak American, which would be weird.)

But every once in a while someone says hai -- I had to look that up, because it sounds like "hi," only they're not saying "hello," it means "yes" or "okay" in Japanish -- or arigato, which means "thank you," which gives you a real feeling of what it must have been like in old Japan, especially with all the pretty paper lanterns hanging around, and the beautiful kimonos the girls all wear. Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers, Hero) is soooo pretty as Sayuri, the geisha girl with blue eyes... which means I guess she's the exotic one in her own exotic land! (Wow, that almost makes my head explode!) And she gets to wear that white face makeup and spin delicate umbrellas around over her shoulder, and so of course the rich and powerful "Chairman" falls in love with her. Ken Watanabe (who we already knew could speak American cuz he did in Batman Begins and The Last Samurai) plays the Chairman, and he's soo handsome, so Sayuri falls in love with him too! But she can't have him, cuz that's not what geishas are supposed to do, or something, and it's all very sad and tragic. Oh, and it's also World War II, so with all the bombs and soldiers and stuff, it's like, nobody gets to do what they want with their lives, cuz everyone is noble and dedicated. I'm not quite sure what they're dedicated to, but you can really tell by how serious everyone is.

Maybe I should read the book before I see the movie again and that will help me understand -- but ugh! Reading again! No thank you! It doesn't really matter, anyway: what's important is that Memoirs of a Geisha is a great movie and makes you understand history without being like a class in school -- it's Hollywood history, which is the best kind! And the movie is very sleek and shiny, like a magazine (magazines are okay to read because they're mostly pictures anyway!). You know how magazines make people and clothes and the whole world look more beautiful than they really are, and how magazines have all the right and perfect and easy answers even for really hard questions? (I bet Cosmo would have the right answer for Sayuri if she asked them about who she should sell her virginity to, like she does in the movie!) Well, Memoirs of a Geisha is like that. This movie totally deserves, like, Oscars and stuff.

--MaryAnn Johanson

User avatar
IG Team
Administration Team
Administration Team
Posts: 3290
Joined: Tue Jun 14, 2016 2:53 pm

Re: Memoirs of a Geisha - Movie Review/Article Thread

Post by IG Team » Sun Oct 02, 2016 12:24 am

Hoshi:

Oh gawd, the Rotten Tomatoes article was brutal, but I enjoyed it. It's sad that the film only a 35% fresh rating, but there's something to that.

Some of the positive reviews they posted aren't necessarily positive, either. The same thing happened with Fantastic Four--bad thing to compare or even bring up here, but go with me on this one--reviewers would try and think of something positive, but then they'd drop a modal or though: "could have been better," "would have been neater to see," stuff like that. Like this "positive" review from the Rotten Tomatoes site:
"Memoirs of a Geisha is worthwhile on many levels, although it lacks the depth of feeling that would have elevated it from a good movie to a romance for the ages."
-- James Berardinelli, REELVIEWS
Or this one...
"Plays like a Disney version of a Zhang Yimou movie, though the end result isn't as dreadful as that designation might suggest."
-- Matt Brunson, CREATIVE LOAFING
One of the local papers, the Virginian-Pilot, has this totally snooty movie critic who usually pans anything that's not artsy-fartsy. The online edition of the paper doesn't have his actual review of the film, but he did an interview article with the actresses in the film, which is here: http://home.hamptonroads.com/stories/pr ... ran=218671. I would love to have seen how many stars he actually gave the film.

If the link doesn't work, I can post the full article in a new thread.

User avatar
IG Team
Administration Team
Administration Team
Posts: 3290
Joined: Tue Jun 14, 2016 2:53 pm

Re: Memoirs of a Geisha - Movie Review/Article Thread

Post by IG Team » Sun Oct 02, 2016 12:27 am

Yuna-chan:

This was also interesting:
The movie version, directed by "Chicago's" Rob Marshall and written by Robin Swicord, has, frankly, Americanized the story. By this I mean the filmmakers make characters crasser, ignore nuances within geisha tradition and give characters attitudes and dialogue highly unlikely for Depression-era Japan. The heroine, who in time becomes a legendary geisha, is modeled in the film more after a willful, modern American teen than a young Japanese woman.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr/re ... 1001525055

User avatar
IG Team
Administration Team
Administration Team
Posts: 3290
Joined: Tue Jun 14, 2016 2:53 pm

Re: Memoirs of a Geisha - Movie Review/Article Thread

Post by IG Team » Sun Oct 02, 2016 12:42 am

Musashi:
Welcome to Kyoto, California

By KAORI SHOJI

Memoirs of a Geisha

Rating: * * (out of 5)
Japanese title: Sayuri
Director: Rob Marshall
Running time: 145 minutes
Language: English
Currently showing
[See Japan Times movie listings]


It's a tough job but someone's gotta do it. It all strikes me as a bit perverse, though, having me -- a Japanese woman who spent part of her childhood in a hanamachi (geisha district) -- write a review of "Memoirs of a Geisha" (released in Japan as "Sayuri").

There are just so many things wrong with the whole package, which is plastered with kitschy oriental cliches. We're talking about a Chinese actress speaking in that stilted Hollywood Asian-English (immortalized by Mr. Yuniyoshi in "Breakfast at Tiffany's") in the role of a Japanese geisha during the Sino-Japanese conflict of the 1930s. It's hard to know how to handle this: go ballistic, start apologizing, giggle nervously or what?

Late into the movie, when American G.I.'s are in control of Kyoto, seasoned geisha Mameha (Michelle Yeoh) wonders out loud to her protege Sayuri (Zhang Ziyi): "What do we know about entertaining Americans?" This pretty much sums it all up. From start to finish, "Memoirs" is hot in pursuit of entertaining a U.S. audience, certain in the conviction that if it can wow the folks in America, it can wow the world.

And who better to helm such a project than Oscar-winning director Rob Marshall ("Chicago")? Marshall can slap show-biz extravaganza onto the screen like no other; he probably shouts "Give 'em the old razzle dazzle!" in his sleep. And to that end, most of what made Arthur Golden's original novel compelling has been trashed -- stuff like subtlety, historical context and detail. But most jarring of all is the plain-as-day, glaring disrespect for a foreign (as in non-U.S., and as such, incomprehensible) culture. Really, is super-entertainment so important as to justify the trampling of what made the story so fascinating in the first place? Well, according to "Memoirs" that's a resounding "Yeah!"

Marshall and his crew (and let's not forget that Steven Spielberg is the executive producer) never pause for breath as they bombard us with pathos, intrigue, fury, sex and passion. The capper is a geisha dance scene that's straight out of Broadway. Never mind that no young geisha in the prewar period would wear glitter eye-shadow and dance solo, on a stage with artsy blue lighting, her hair flowing hip and loose and her limbs contorting to snazzy, modern ballet movements.

In the same way, Marshall turns a renowned Kyoto hanamachi of the 1930s into a cacophonous, chaotic confusion that's more Chinatown, L.A. (or the Hollywood rendition thereof). According to the production notes, Marshall felt that the present-day Kyoto was too "modern," and so he created an impressively colossal geisha-district set in Southern California, complete with tile-roofed houses, wooden bridges and cobblestone streets.

Unfortunately, the whole thing reeks of a souvenir shop extravaganza, like they upended the shelves of Oriental Bazaar right onto the streets. There's just no regard here for hanamachi aesthetics that disdained all that was obvious, conspicuous or abundant; the atmosphere depended on how much was hidden and how much was subtly suggested. But apparently, that's no way to razzle-dazzle 'em.

All is not lost, though, for some of Asia's best actresses pull off top-notch performances. Zhang Ziyi is superb as the passive/aggressive Sayuri who was sold by her impoverished parents into an okiya (geisha house) at the age of 9 and, against all odds, flowered into the most celebrated geisha in Kyoto. Zhang adds a cold steeliness to her fragile, demure demeanor, which, of course, is the prerequisite trait of a true geisha. The way she can go from casting down her eyes, saying, "Do I please you?" to a wealthy client, to exchanging sarcasm gunfire with older rival Hatsumomo (Gong Li) is excellent.

But it's Gong who steals every scene she's in, decked out in punkish hairdos and fantastic avant-garde kimono garb that have no connection to historical reality, but look sizzling and, with Marshall-san at the helm, that's all that matters. Sayuri is likened to water ("You have eyes like the rain"), but Hatsumomo is all burning flames. She unleashes her fury against anyone who dares to cross her and is fearless about the consequences. Michelle Yeoh is also wonderful as ex-geisha queen Mameha, who takes Sayuri under her wing and coaches her on all aspects of the geisha aesthetics ("For us, pain and beauty always come side by side"). Mameha is, perhaps, the most thankless and difficult character to play, for she must mute her beauty and femininity in order to enhance Sayuri's. Yeoh is brave enough to go for camp. The night Mameha auctions off Sayuri's virginity to the highest bidder (a sleazy old doctor), she tells her despairing young disciple in a deeply profound tone, "Celebrate this moment, Sayuri. Tonight, all the lights of the hanamachi burn for you."

On occasion, "Memoirs" dips into the spirit of the original novel, which stressed, above all, that geisha were not prostitutes but "moving works of art in the floating world." In an age when very few women could find employment, becoming a geisha was practically the only "profession" available, and the okiya the only place where women could live and exist, independent of their families. An okiya functioned like any company, and a good geisha was the one who knew how to promote herself, worked hard at pleasing her clients and brought back the earnings (and connections) that would keep her colleagues and the mother-boss, "Okaasan" (played by a stunning Kaori Momoi), fed and clothed.

Being a geisha was a business, and a ruthless one at that. There was simply no room for concepts like equality, rights and ethics -- either a geisha was good at what she did, in which case she brought success and prosperity to the okiya, or she didn't, and ran the risk of starving. Momoi's Okaasan portrays this excellently -- forever balancing the books and worrying about funds, she makes it extremely clear that nothing with her is ever personal, but strictly business.

Still, "Memoirs" has too much that's hard on the eye (and mind), not least of all the love scenes between Sayuri and her protector, who goes by the name of Chairman (played by Ken Watanabe at his most insipid). It's one thing to see the city of Kyoto misrepresented, but when we're asked to believe that a much older Japanese businessman and a young geisha during the 1940s would engage in physical contact in broad daylight, standing under a willow tree in a Japanese garden . . . surely that was when the theater should have released some emergency oxygen masks from the ceiling to save us all from hyperventilating. I looked around to see if everyone else felt the same, but no. This being Japan, the audience was restrained, respectful, polite. If only the movie had some of the same qualities.
The Japan Times: Dec. 15, 2005

Personally I was absolutely not impressed when I saw it. ZZ, Yeoh and Gong Li did far better performances before (just think of ZZ in "The Road Home", or Gong Li in "The Emperor and his assassin"). I, too, wasn't impressed with Watanabe Ken. His chairman... I don't know, I didn't really like him.

What freaked me out most were those blatant displays of complete ignorance to Japanese culture in general. For Marshall, obviously, everything Asian is the same. But worst, I still think that casting the three lead characters with non-Japanese was the biggest mistake. Surely, the three are doing their best, but it still feels awkward. Call me racist if you want, but I believe a geisha can only be played properly by a Japanese actress (like... Miyazawa Rie, or Nakama Yukie, or Nagasawa Masami). Not to mention that some scenes in it were just plain stupid and typical for what comes out of Hollywood these days. I miss the days of a movie like Lawrence of Arabia...

If it would have been a Japanese movie, it would surely have kicked ass. Sadly, it's just standard Hollywood stuff. Luckily there was Otoko-tachi no Yamato in the cinemas already... After watching that I joined the emperor's birthday greetings and, too, went "Tenno heika... Banzai!" Â :twisted:

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest