Memoirs of a Geisha

Rob Marshall’s masterpiece Memoirs of a Geisha dazzles audiences with vivid imagery, beautiful women, and a comprehensive insight into the Japanese Geisha culture. Actors Ziyi Zhang and Ken Watanabe drive the movie forward, and are supported by a skilled supporting cast. The cinematography is among the best in recent films. Rob Marshall has delivered a movie worth watching. The Memoirs of a Geisha creative team consisted of Rob Marshall, Robin Swicord, Dion Beebe, and Steven Spielberg.. Director Rob Marshall is a relatively new player in Hollywood. His breakout film was the recent blockbuster and academy award wining Chicago. Thanks to his meager experience in the business, his ideas are still fresh. Marshall hired Robin Swicord to adapt the novel into a screenplay. Her name shouldn’t ring a bell; past work includes writing Shag, Little Women, and Matilda. The next creative mind was the cinematographer Dion Beebe. While his name may sound obscure, all of his creations are not. His most memorable works are Equilibrium, Chicago, and Collateral. His past reflects that he’s an innovator, as each of those three films was as different as they get. Producer Steven Spielberg’s name is synonymous with successd; he has produced well over a hundred blockbuster films in the past three decades. So what do all of these elements combined tell us going into the movie? We know that the movie will take risks, but is backed by juggernauts who don’t know what a true flop of a movie is. Memoirs of a Geisha is unique, because the movie takes risks and doesn’t flop. Memoirs of a Geisha opens with a sequence entirely in Japanese, without subtitles. It is somewhere in rural Japan and the characters are a loving but fragile family. In the middle of the night, during a storm, the father is forced to sell his two daughters in order to take care of his wife. The trader splits apart the two sisters when he arrives in Kyoto, as he is unable to sell them both to a geisha house. The younger one, Chiyo (Zhang), is accepted into the house while her sister is taken off to an unknown place. At the house, Chiyo goes to school, but is forced to clean and do chores with her new friend Pumpkin (Youki Kudoh). In the house there is only one Geisha. Hatsumomo (Li Gong) plays an evil-stepsister role, through which she punishes the younger ones because she feels threatened inwardly. This extremely long movie follows Chiyo as she grows up and eventually adopts the Geisha name Sayuri. Sayuri, as a paragon Geisha, falls in love with an elusive man named The Chairman (Watanabe). Of course, there are complications. In a two and a half hour movie, there exist a plethora of them. Veteran performers play the two main characters, The Chairman and Sayuri. Watanabe has been in about thirty movies. He believes in the Samurai code, which is quite transparent in his acting. Zhang has done about fifteen movies, but she is a rising star. Behind NBA player Yao Ming, Forbes ranked her as the second most popular Chinese celebrity in America. She had laudable performances in Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, so she set the bar quite high for this film. Both Zhang and Watanabe reflect great chemistry on the set, making this fairytale-like movie much more powerful. The movie overall was moving for me. When it first came out, it received harsh criticisms because the three major actors (including Sayuri) were Chinese and the movie revolved around Japanese culture. The general masses didn’t consider that the people responsible for hiring these actors were of a Japanese corporation – they were trying to better appeal to the American market. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but many movie reviewers were unnecessarily harsh on this film over this seemingly petty detail. Another reason that this movie received intense criticisms was because many argued that it digressed too far from the book. While I haven’t read the book, I don’t beievethat a movie should be appreciated less because they exercised their artistic license a little more. The movie is based off the book, touches upon similar topics, but in the end focuses on different issues. That’s not a bad thing. I felt that Memoirs of a Geisha was a satisfying film. The acting was very emotionally driven. The plot, although simplistic at times, was captivating enough to keep me interested. Lastly, the cinematography and overall look to the film was beautiful and merits praise by itself. It was long though. I wouldn’t suggest watching it on a Saturday night. But, if you’re looking to watch a film that is both visually and emotionally stunning, rent Memoirs of a Geisha. Final Grade: 5