Memoirs of a Geisha official site: http://www.memoirsofageisha.com
It has been the talk of the town. Everyone is talking about it here and there and everywhere. I first heard about this movie around October last year from Azli. When he first mention to me, I was puzzled. *what geisha? Believe me when I say at that point of time, I donâ€™t even know how to pronounce the word â€œmemoirsâ€*
To be honest with before I even start writing anything about this movie, I was not a big fan of Zhang Zhiyi. Donâ€™t ask me why. I donâ€™t even know it myself. I somehow rather felt she does not fit the roles she take up in each movie. She somehow look rather vague all her shows.
You might ask what brings me to this movie? The hype? The promo? The main reason I watch this show, Gong Li. I couldnâ€™t deny her charm. Nope, I am no lesbo, but I simply find her charming and beautiful. Yes, I find her more beautiful than ever before . No idea why, but I guess some women age beautifully while many just fails to even live up to it. The second reason, the asian culture. I might not seem like a cultural person but well, yes, I love cultural stuffs.
This movie which is produced base on a famous book tells a tale of how Nitta Sayuri became a very famous geisha. Like my previous and every review, reviews written here shall not be compared to the book as I always never believe in comparing what that has been written.
The movie started of with a disappointing start. Yes, a spoiler remark on my very first sentence. I just canâ€™t help it. It just annoys me and gave me this big headache while watching it. The show starts by telling the life of Chiyo (young Sayuri). Please be noted whatever I understand from this opening was merely base on my assumption as itâ€™s all in Japanese and there isnâ€™t any sub titles.
Chiyo was born to a poor fishing family. Her mother was seriously sick while her family was in serious need of money thus Chiyo and her sister was being sold to okiya (house of geisha). I hated how the opening scene were being shot. Purely zoom in, close up, blur and shaky shots. One of the worst starting I believe I have seen. Worst of all everything was shot in this dark environment with loads of movements. Simply sickening.
Everything was in Japanese until the scene where Chiyo and her sister was pushed on to a train. Everything after that was in English. I never actually understand why it was done that way. If they really want this show in Japanese, they should just do it, by all means. If they want to do it in English, do it all the way then. If they want to use multiple languageâ€¦ then mix it all the way.
Once Chiyo and her sister was being brought to Tokyo, they were quickly being separated when one okiya decided to buy Chiyo over while her sister was sold to some prostitution place. Chiyo was being bought by the okiya family where Hatsumomo is staying in. Yes, the famous Hatsumomo played by Gong Li. She was the most famous geisha there and then. An object all men dream of having.
In the okiya, Chiyo soon get to know Pumpkin. A little girl, being sold to the okiya to be a geisha too. Chiyo was however determine to find her sister and runaway together. Her dreams somehow shatter when she knows there were too many okiya out there to know where her sister is. She then listens to Pumpkin and work hard to please her okiya mum.
Her dreams finally came true when her okiya mum decided to send her and Pumpkin to the school of geisha. Happy that she could leave the okiya, Chiyo is soon determined to look for her sister once again. Hatsumomo on the other hand seriously dislike Chiyo when she saw that she have beautiful eyes. She constantly say that Chiyo has this stinky fish smell and forbids her from going into her room or touching her stuffs.
One day, Hatsumomo asked Chiyo to swear herself to Hatsumomo when she knows Chiyoâ€™s sisterâ€™s whereabouts. Chiyo was soon asked to dirty Mahemaâ€™s (Hatsumomoâ€™s rival.Yes, she is also a very famous geisha who got the highest bid on her mizuage day) kimono. At that point of time, a descent and nice kimono is worth a fortune. Very very, super duper expensive.
Desperate to know her sisterâ€™s whereabouts, Chiyo did whatever Hatsumomo wanted her to do. She was soon punished and being beaten when the okiya mum found out what happened. When Hatsumomo told Chiyo about her sister, she quickly go and find her. Her sister has decided to runaway with Chiyo that very night. It wasnâ€™t really Chiyoâ€™s night when she bump in to Hatsumomo having an affair with another men. When the okiya mum heard some noise and came out, Hatsumomo tries to put the blame on Chiyo.
In need of protecting herself, she told the okiya mum that she bump into Hatsumomoâ€™s affair. The angry okiya mum then ordered the door of the okiya locked to prevent anyone coming in and out of the okiya. Chiyo then tries to climb on the roof to runaway but fell down from the roof. She was seriously injured while her sister has left without her. Yes, her sister can never return to this place (no idea why, itâ€™s their tradition). She then never heard from her sister but she finally knows that her parents passed away.
The okiya mum was angry and furious when Chiyoâ€™s debt just got more and more. Instead of wanting to make her a geisha, Chiyo is now a slave in the okiya. One day, the sad Chiyo was crying on the bridge. That is when a handsome rich man, the Chairman finally walks up to Chiyo and talked to her and looked at her in her eyes. *yes yesâ€¦ I always sayâ€¦ look at them in the eyes. It works. Eyes… eyesâ€¦ eyes.* The chairman soon bought her a sour plum ice cream and that soon change Chiyoâ€™s life. Yes, she is determine to be a famous geisha from that day onwards.
When Chiyo is 15, she bumped into the Chairman once again and her life soon changes. At the same time, Mahema came to Chiyoâ€™s okiya and decided to take her to be her miyako (apprentice geisha). Chiyoâ€™s name soon change to Sayuri on her first day of being a miyako. Sayuri would have to earn and pay back everything she owe the chiyoâ€™s mum within 3 months.
The hardship training soon starts. Mahema soon teaches Sayuri how to dance, entertain and sing. Just when everything starts to go smooth sailing, the jealous Hatsumomo soon trains up Pumpkin to compete with Sayuri. Hatsumomo constantly tries to ruin every chance for Sayuri to be famous.
With the help of Mahemaâ€™s ex-client, the chairman and Nobu, they soon manage to bring Sayurio to stardom. Sayuri tries to devote herself close to the chairman however she have to divert her attention to Nobu because she needs to divert Hatsumomoâ€™s attention. When Hatsumomo get to know about what has happened, she was furious and set to destroy Sayuri. She soon spread rumours about Sayuri and tries to ruin her mizuage day.
Matters worsen when Mahemaâ€™s danna (sponsors of a geisha) also has an eye for Sayuri. Problem arises when rumours that Sayuri has lost her virginity before the mizuage day. The final results came out when Sayuri got the highest bid record ever. She earned 15,000 yen on her mizuage day, more than enough to settle all her debts. However, the okiya mum decided not to give her the money, instead she promoted Sayuri to be Nitta Sayuri and she took over the okiya. Pumpkin was very angry as all she ever wanted was to take over the okiya.
Hatsumomo was very angry as well and her jealousy soon sets the okiya on fire. Just when everything seems better, there is a war between the Americans and the Japanese soon set a big influence to the geisha world.
Pumpkin becomes an American influenced geisha. She speaks fluent english, and acts wildly (unlike the traditional geisha). Sayuri however was sent to a rural area during the war. She soon return back to Tokyo when the Chairman and Nobu needed her help. Some influential Americans say they would like to meet Sayuri and hope she can help to persuade the Americans to sign a contract with them.
Thereâ€™s lots of twist and turn around but hey, in the end, they got together and stay happily ever after. But a geisha is only half a wife. They are only the wife during the night.
I was rather upset with Zhang Zhiyi bad performance. I am not trying to be bias but she just fails to bring out the geisha spirit in her. Yes, I think the arrogant and over confident her would have to settle down for a humble and little character was just too vague. I find her acting too fake. But I must agree.. her eyes is very mesmerizing.
However I was really impressed with Gong Liâ€™s acting. The scene where little Chiyo first step foot into the okiya and saw Hatsumomo. Wow! Simply beautiful and it does bring out the spirit of a geisha. Michelle Yeohâ€™s acting was however quite plain. It didnâ€™t really bring out the best in her. Rather plain and simple.
As for the cultural part, the kimono is really beautiful. However, the floral patterns on the kimono were rather big compare to the traditional geisha patterns. According to the geisha culture, only the miyako wear big and bright pattern kimono while the geishaâ€™s wear a rather plain or small pattern kimono.
As a movie itself, it is a rather beautifully shot movie. However as a story and character wise movie, I think it somehow fails.