Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
Critic Consensus: Less nuanced than its source material, Memoirs of a Geisha may be a lavish production, but it still carries the simplistic air of a soap opera.
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Critic Reviews for Memoirs of a Geisha
The subject remained interesting enough to this provincial American to accept and ultimately enjoy the film's well-worn romanticism, even with its resignedly tired happy ending.
Memoirs of a Geisha is everything you'd expect it to be: beautiful, mesmerizing, tasteful, Japanese. It's just not very hot.
Ultimately, Memoirs of a Geisha compares unfavorably with the book, though it offers pleasures of its own.
... a fascinating glimpse at a lost world of women with skin of porcelain and spines of steel, and the men in their thrall.
... the movie is a well-meaning, vaporous bore, enlivened only by occasional traces of Showgirls-style camp and plasticine tears trickling down impeccably powdered cheeks.
Audience Reviews for Memoirs of a Geisha
The visuals and technical aspects are indeed splendid; but the flawed narrative, though enjoyable to follow during most of the time, seems like a cheap soap-opera that even comes up with a ridiculous revelation in a pathetic, melodramatic last half-hour.
Taking on an immense time period and a form of culture that has never been appropriately touched upon, this film does a lot with the book it's based on, creates a wonderful tapestry of history, culture, and most importantly, shows women as commodities. The story begins with a poor little girl in China, who is sold, along with her sister, to a geisha house in a metropolis. She is disconnected with her family, eventually becomes orphaned, and has to move through societal traverses in order to become a geisha, all just so she can survive. The story is not all about her struggles as a woman in a territorial society. The geisha, Sayuri, is also in love with a Chairman whom she met while in her struggles. She is peaceable, quiet, and contemplative at all times, and though she doesn't grow up as a geisha, she acts the part at all times. Zhang Ziyi's performance as Sayuri speaks on the quietness of women in 1920s China, about the art form that exemplified being a geisha, and the taciturn power women held when they used their sexuality as a form of power. There are struggles for power between geisha houses and the women try to gain agency and yet let themselves slip into oblivion time and again and yet feel like they're climbing the social ladder. While Sayuri simply tries to stay in the game in order to win affection and finally be loved, others remotely care about their future as a possible Madame and their link to a future of exploitation. The geisha culture itself is not always explained in the full way it was in the book, and some of that translation is left to be interpreted through intense cinematography, immense sets, period clothing, and the performances from actresses Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh, and Youki Kudoh. It feels and looks as Japanese as a Western audience can expect, but most of the time it felt belabored, longwinded, and far too Hollywood. A Japanese adaptation would have been more powerful, daring, and ultimately may have accomplished what this film lacked. There wasn't much that is learned about what it is to be a geisha from this film except several parlor tricks. As a film that represents history, many of the customs and elaborations weren't correct, and it relied on baseless events in order to drag the film an extra forty minutes in screen-time that it didn't need. The ending was predictable from almost the beginning of the film, but I enjoyed the sappiness of a good love story. Though the film was criticized for using Chinese actresses for Japanese parts, the performances themselves were interesting, especially Gong Li's. The story though is ultimately tried and true, and though this Americanized, saturated version isn't what I expected, it does do what the audience really wants.
Memoirs of a Geisha Quotes
|Sayuri:||I am not worthless!|
|Sayuri Narrator:||After all, these are not the memoirs of an empress, nor of a queen. These are memoirs of another kind.|
|The Baron:||Mameha asked me to show you my kimono collection. It's quite venerated. My grandfather and father collected kimonos. I've given a number of valuable kimonos to Mameha; I like to give presents to beautiful girls.|
|Sayuri:||[As narration] The heart dies a slow death. Shedding each hope like leaves, until one day there are none. No hopes. Nothing remains. She paints her face to hide her face, her eyes a deep water; it is not for Geisha to want, it is not for Geisha to feel; Geisha is an artist of the floating world. She dances. She sings. She entertains you - whatever you want. The rest is shadows: the rest is secret.|
|Sayuri:||The heart dies a slow death. Shedding each hope like leaves, until one day there are none. No hopes. Nothing remains. She paints her face to hide her face, her eyes a deep water; it is not for Geisha to want, it is not for Geisha to feel; Geisha is an artist of the floating world. She dances. She sings. She entertains you - whatever you want. The rest is shadows, the rest is secret.|
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