Classics: Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) A Review

Watched this once a long long time ago.  And I remember liking it a lot.  Will my second viewing bring similar results?

Certificate: 12

Director: Rob Marshall

Screenwriter: Robin Swicord (screenplay), Arthur Golden (book)

Starring: Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Michelle Yeoh

Genre: Drama, Romance

Runtime: 145 Minutes

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewed by: Pearl

This film one 3 Academy Awards back in 2006. Best Costume, Best Cinematography and Best Art Design.  And all three are so well deserved.  These are the three things that really do stick out in this film.  Romantic Dramas are not usually my kind of thing, and it isn’t the story that sticks out here, it’s the way they tell it, and the way it is presented.

At 9 years old, Chiyo is sold to a Geisha house, and over the coming years, trains along side her friend Pumpkin until she becomes one of Japans most famous Geisha, all while hiding her secret love for one of the city’s most powerful men.  But when the Second World War invades their picturesque life, Chiyo must make some hard choices.

In certain places this heart-breaking and eye-opening story does get a little long and over drawn.  Too much time I feel, is spent on Chiyo’s childhood in the Geisha house.  When the more interesting and engaging things don’t happen until later.  I realise a lot of what happens when she is child helps to shape and inform the later relationships in her life, but this could have more effectively be shown in smaller flashbacks rather then taking up a good forty five minutes to an hour of the film.

It is however one of the most beautifully shot films I have ever watched.  They do a great job of making the life of the Geisha look ethereal and magical.  Especially those geishas who do well and make good money for their houses.  The production design and cinematography here are exquisite, and are enough to keep you watching the film, even when the story is beginning to trail off. 

It is easy to forget while watching the film that their lives were not as great as the film portrays.  They don’t in my opinion focus enough on the downsides of their work.  That they are taken from home at young ages and basically spend most of their lives in servitude unless they are lucky enough to get themselves a sponsor, an even then, most of the money they earn was not their own, but went straight back into the house funds.  Don’t let this film fool you into thinking that the life of a Geisha is this glamourous.

Memoirs of  Geisha is widely available for Home entertainment and Digital download.

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