(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

Memoirs of a Hollywood Studio

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Memoirs of a Geisha is visually stunning and captures the elegance and refinement that is Geisha, but in a rather hollow and Hollywood idea of what Japan once entailed. While I'm sure the outstanding cast lineup of Ziyi Zhang, Michelle Yeoh, Gong Li and Ken Watanabe all did exactly as the director--Rob Marshall who made 2002's Chicago--asked, I fear Marshall just didn't know what to make of the story or the elegance and politics is entailed (although, to be fair, I've not read the book, but I presume given its popularity that it can't be as reductive as the film). I actually expected the film to be in Japanese (or maybe Cantonese given that most of the cast are from China; a point of some controversy), but the English language was chosen and in many ways wipes the cultural specificities that are integral to such a story. Don't get me wrong, there are some absolutely sumptuous visuals and the cinematography was outstanding, but the story itself, which purports to show the possibilities for resistance and happiness for someone sold to a Geisha house, seem clich�-ridden and to have a message of empowerment more at home in the 1930s and than the 2000s (which could have been fine had the film felt like a period-piece, but its studio-production reduced any historical or cultural resonance to a cardboard-cutout minimum). David Stratton, I think, hit the nail on the head in his weekend review in The Australian:
Memoirs of a Geisha is a movie about Japan for people who don't like, or would never dream of going to see, Japanese movies.

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At 1/25/2006 01:09:00 pm, Blogger sussy said...

I don't think Geisha suffers for not being in Japanese. The book was written in English, therefore the movie should be the same. I'm actually going to Japan in a few weeks so I'll be interested to see how this movie has been received over there.

And for the record, I'll probably be seeing it with Japanese dubbing. Heh.

At 2/12/2006 04:10:00 pm, Anonymous tmz_99 said...

MOAG :| god damn, worst movie I've seen all year. The fact it was in English wasn't a problem, moreso the slow pace at which it was played out. It was almost as though the director was low on source material (which obviously he wasn't as friends have told me that a lot was missing from the book to the movie) and felt it necessary to stretch what little skeleton of a storyline remained out.
Yes, the visuals were stunning, but certainly not any more then recent HK and Chineese movies such as Hero, Crouching Tiger or House of Knifes (and the multitude of foreign asian films that didn't come to our shores). But the pace... crap... 3hrs better spent learning to make and eating sushi for a true Jap expereience.


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