Film review on the film Memoirs of a Geisha Essay

Film review on the film Memoirs of a GeishaA Memoirs of a Geisha is not a movie just for women but for men as well. It’s a movie that gives you a glimpse into a culture that some of us think we know a little bit about. Some of us have no idea about it. It’s such a beautifully sensual film, but at the same time, a very pure film. It’s a celebration of a culture.

A memoir of a Geisha breaks the heart in more ways than one. We perceive a geisha to be a Japanese prostitute, because of American soldiers who occupied Japan, post World War 2. A geisha is an artist, a trained performer and conversationalist whose time is purchased by clients in need of a business facilitator. A geisha provides companionship of the highest order. Chiyo (Zhang) was not born to be a geisha. Born in a fishing village in a rickety shack on the edge of a cliff, she was destined to be a wife and mother to a fisherman husband. However, when her mother became ill she and her sister were sold and Chiyo ended up in a geisha house.

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A strong-willed child, Chiyo was not willing to simply accept the life of a geisha. It is not until she experiences a rare act of kindness from a stranger known as the Chairman (Ken Watanabe) that the life of a geisha becomes a real possibility. One day while Chiyo is crying over the loss of her sister, who was sold into prostitution and soon after disappeared, she meets the Chairman who dries her tears and brings the first smile to her face since the loss of her parents. Seeing that a pair of beautiful geishas accompanies the chairman, Chiyo decides that she will one day become a geisha so that she may win his heart.

Soon Chiyo has become Sayuri and under the guidance of Mameha (MicheleYeoh), a legendary geisha, Sayuri becomes the most celebrated geisha in all of Japan. This happens at the expense of Hatsumomo (Li Gong) who Chiyo/Sayuri had been servant to throughout her childhood and now has become her chief rival.In my opinion, Memoirs of a Geisha is a story rich in characters and settings. Rob Marshall and writer Robin Swicord craft a loving portrait of the geisha that serves at once to correct misperceptions of the geisha and tell the story of a spirited girl who becomes a fierce, intelligent and beautiful woman. There are plenty of good things. John Williams score, which features the stirring work of both Yitzhak Perelman and Yoyo Ma, is exceptional. This is some of the great composer’s best work.

If the story told in Memoirs of A Geisha were as compelling as the music, sets, costumes and Ziyi Zang’s starring performance, we would be discussing a historic, epic film that would be revered for ages. To be fair, Memoirs of a Geisha retains a certain level of engagement, and never loses our attention so long as we don’t question too much. Despite the beauty and emotion brought about by Ziyi Zhang’s performance I cannot escape the films many anti-feminist underpinnings. Sayuri is never the equal of any man in the film. This is a societal thing; the film is of its time in which woman were all considered second-class citizens in Japan.

The problem is that the film offers no criticism of this situation; it merely presents it as a framework for the romance between Sayuri and the chairman. The film focuses on the world of Japanese geisha, with a ludicrously talented cast, a fascinating subject, beautiful trappings harnessed in the service of a tediously pedestrian story.Reference:1) Robin Swicord; Rob Marshall; Memoirs of a Geisha; Columbia pictures; 2005.


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