By Kasey Schiedeck | Images property of Columbia Pictures
Memoirs of a Geisha
Films adapted from novels typically fail to capture the same passion and fervor reminiscent of the story in a written format. Memoirs of a Geisha, the story of a young Japanese servant turned geisha, is adapted from Arthur S. Golden’s (date) novel of the same name. The film suffers the same curse as many adapted screenplays, although I would recommend this film as necessary for viewer ship in a theater because there are moments of indisputable splendor.
Memoirs of a Geisha Movie Review
Suzuka Ohgo plays with commendable acting proficiency the young Chiyo who is sold when she is about seven years old as a servant and soon separated from her sister. In her new home she encounters one of the most famous geisha’s in Japan Hatsumomo (Gong Li) and soon yearns for the same power and comfort that comes with such a life. By the age of fifteen she is taught the tremendously difficult tasks of geisha-like perfection that makes her one of the most coveted geisha novices in the country. A love story soon emerges between her and the one kind man she has ever encountered until such a lifestyle is disturbed by World War II.
Having never read the novel, I cannot properly deduce the accuracy of the film in sentiment or style. Those who have read it claim that the film displaces depth with fanciful nonsense. I would concur no doubt and also add that melodrama never eases the execution of a story.
Director Rob Marshall of Chicago fame has a knack for visual style but he appears to hinder many of his films with the need to entertain fervently at all costs. Where a simple camera pan allowing the audience to interpret this foreign world independently would do, Marshall employs nonstop chatter and narration that distracts. The characters, although astutely played by all involved, appear flat as a result.
Memoirs of a Geisha
What makes the film entertaining are the acting performances and the admirable screenplay principally by Robin Swicord. Li is incredibly audacious as the maliciously conniving Hatsumomo; watching her is like reminiscing with legendary sinful fatales like Betty Davis and Barbara Stanwyck. The somewhat well-known Ken Watanbe plays The Chairman, a kind and wealthy older man, with direct sentiment that works quite well. Chinese actress Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) does a remarkable job that is somewhat surprising. It takes her a while to become acclimated but she soon displays commendable ability.
There are several scenes that present aesthetically intricate models of 1940s Japan that alone are very interesting. As a holiday film, I do recommend Memoirs of a Geisha because the overall the film is a stylish adaptation even if it never quite takes your breath away.
Drected By Rob Marshall
Screenplay by Robin Swicord
Based on the novel by Arthut S. Golden
Sayuri: Ziyi Zhang
Chiyo: Suzuka Ohgo
The Chairman: Ken Watanbe
Geisha Hatsumomo: Gong Li
Mameha: Michelle Yeoh
Pumpkin: Youki Kudoh
Nobu: Koji Yakusho
The Baron: Cary-Hiroyuki-Tagawa