Memoirs of a Geisha

Review (Movie)

There was a certain joyous viciousness in attacking Memoirs of a Geisha when it was released to American theaters. The exclusion of primary Japanese actresses in favor of Chinese replacements was a poor move on the film maker's part, but Hollywood loves to screw stuff up like that. There were also questions of inaccuracies, the major one the fight about the mizuage (selling of virginity) in which some "Japan-fans" were protesting the link with prostitution and others were outcrying a movie which praised selling of sex.

Where was the movie in all of this? Reviews showed tepid responses. Fans of the book described it as a "greatest moments" collection of clips more than a whole. Some slammed Ziyi Zhang as being wooden (I do not know if they know she does not speak English natively.) Some people poured forth compliments about the beauty of the movie, clinging to certain scenes as primary examples. There was the flavor of a war brewing over a movie that was largely being ignored in the middle.

I got it via pay-per-view. My wife had been wanting to see it so I saw no problem giving her the chance. I watched it more out of the corner of my eye than directly, but I still got a good deal of it.

Most of everything you have heard about the acting is false. They were neither piss poor actors nor were they great. They were adequate to deliver the lines effectively, but rarely did they truly bring passion into it. They reminded me of an equalizer set to the middle. In minor scenes, they did a fair job. In stupendously emotional scenes, they did a fair job.

This movie is far more about direction than about acting. Even the beauty inherent in the cinematography (just once I want to see an UGLY Asian movie) is overshadowed by the pacing of the movie. Each scene breaks from the last, but this works in this movie. It feels like you are reaching to catch up, like you are only getting snippets, which you are. You feel the missing scenes. The only problem with the storytelling is that some of these cuts ruin the visual narration so that you are left guessing more than once. Having read the book, I could fill in the gaps, but some people cannot stand that.

I don't see myself watching it again, though I admit it was good. I am glad I got to see it, though, and I am glad that all that damned debate about it has finally died, somewhat, down.

My score: 68.

2005. Directed by Rob Marshall. Screenplay by Robin Swicord based on the novel by Arthur Golden. Starying Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Li Gong, and Michelle Yeoh.

This review written by W. Doug Bolden

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