Saturday, January 14, 2006

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA - A snowflake of a movie

I use the phrase "visually stunning" to describe movies rather often, but in the case of MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA it is, once again, apt. I guess it is just syptomatic of a world in which Hollywood regularly throws $90million at blockbuster movies. With all that cash, you have to try really hard not to get wonderful sets, stunning costumes and production design. This movie really is beautiful to look at. The geisha themselves are truly art-forms and the world they inhabit is like a fairy-tale land of dark forests, crystal clear rivers, cherry blossom and marshmallow clouds. True, they must contend with rather petty forms of female bitchiness, but the harsher realities of life are kept at bay. When the US bombs Japan, one geisha is sent to the country by her protector, another staves off starvation by - oh, the hardship! - selling a kimono. When the war is over, they pick up where they left off. True, any street-walker can now be a "geisha" and service the US personnel, but for a true geisha, a rich Japanese protector can still be found.

I sat through all two and a half hours of this movie enraptured by the successful evocation of a dream-world Japan. I am sure it is not authentic, but it is lavish, soothing, lovely all the same. However, as I left the screening, the snowflake melted and the spell was broken. Beauty aside, I had gained nothing. The geisha had sold me the same show as her men: she dances, she entertains, but we never see behind the mask. We are not allowed to see whether she feels guilty about her protector's wife and children, or for disappointing the man who is in love with her, let alone her reactions to the dramatic changes in her country. MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA is, then, pretty, but pointless. I guess there are worse things to be.

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA is on global release

1 comment:

  1. My mate Adrian just emailed me to say "You made no comment in your blog on "Memoirs .." about the fact the main actresses were not Japanese." I didn't make a comment because I think it is irrelevant. I see no reason why Chinese actresses cannot play Japanese women. After all, Al Pacino is not Cuban and he played Scarface. That's why they call it "acting".