Memoirs of a Geisha

Maybe winning Oscars for your first picture is too much for anyone. The expectations and bar has been raised so high that you can never reach them. This might the case for director Rob Marshall (Chicago). His award winning film 'Chicago' reaffirmed the public's love for musical theatre and he and his cast were rewarded for their efforts. He was nominated for Best Director and the film won Best Picture. Next up for Marshall was a film based on the best-selling novel by Arthur Golden called 'Memoirs of a Geisha'. There has recently been a string of visually beautiful and exotic films from the East ('Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon', 'Hero', 'House of the Flying Daggers', etc.) that North American audiences have embraced. What could make more sense than coupling a story from Japan about the secret lives of geishas and acclaimed director Rob Marshall? Maybe the producers of the film should have thought twice about giving the film to a North American director. Maybe the subtle nuances and techniques within Asian film are not part of the makeup of the North American director. It was for me just another example of the West making the East seem exotic as opposed to simply relating the human story of the film. Marshall seemed to focus too much on the location, costumes and set and not enough on the telling of the story. The acting in the film is quite good; a standout for me was Li Gong as the evil geisha who takes every opportunity to make Sayuri's life hell. I just did not care enough about the characters or form any kind of deep attachment to them. I was fairly ambivalent and left wanting more. Whatever the reason, Memoirs of a Geisha was somewhat of a disappointment for me. I went in expecting a beautiful, thoughtful and emotional film and only got the beauty part. Even though the film is beautiful to look at it is maybe the undercurrent of coldness that did not allow me to become emotionally invested in it. Don't get me wrong, it is still a good film, just I was expecting a great film.

In the late 1920s in a fishing village on the Japanese coast, two sisters – Chiyo (Suzuka Ohgo – first feature film) and Satsu (Samantha Futerman – first feature film) are sold in the middle of the night. The two sisters are split up, with 9 year-old Chiyo staying at the home of Mother (Kaori Momoi – star of many Chinese films) and the older Satsu living in a more suspect area of town. Mother runs a house which trains young Japanese women to become geishas and she is hopeful of the future earnings of Chiyo because of her blue eyes. Chiyo is introduced to Pumpkin (Zoe Weizenbaum – first feature film), a young girl also living with Mother. Pumpkin shows Chiyo how to survive in the house and to stay away from Hatsumomo (Li Gong – Farewell My Concubine, Raise the Red Lantern), a cruel and competitive geisha. Chiyo tries to reunite with her sister, but gives up hope when Mother tells her that Satsu has run away and that her parents have both died. After a chance encounter with a man called the Chairman (Ken Wantanabe – The Last Samurai, Batman Begins), Chiyo decides she wants to become a geisha. After some false starts, Chiyo is taken under the wing of Mameha (Michelle Yeoh – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Moonlight Express), an older geisha who runs another house. Chiyo is reborn as Sayuri (Ziyi Zhang – House of Flying Daggers, Hero) and goes on to become one of the most celebrated geishas in her area of Japan.

Special Features:
-"Sayuri's Other Journey: From the Novel to the Screen" featurette
-"The Road to Japan" featurette
-"Geisha Bootcamp" featurette
-"Building the HanaMachi" featurette
-"The Look of a Geisha" featurette
-"The Music of Memoirs" featurette
-"A Geisha's Dance" featurette
-"The World of the Geisha" featurette
-"The Way of the Sumo" featurette
-"Rob Marshall" featurette
-"A Day with Chef Nobu Matsuhisa" featurette

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