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Memoirs of A Geisha: Memorable movie

Rob Marshall's Memoirs of A Geisha set in wartime Japan wonderfully recounts the life of geisha Sayuri

29th December, 2005

Memoirs of A Geisha, Rob Marshall's tinsel translation of Arthur Golden's novel captures the life of a geisha in Japan during the World War. The movie by the Chicago director portrays geisha Sayuri as she travels from child labour to sought-after geisha.

Memoirs of A Geisha starts in pre-war Japan, with its breath-taking scenery and serene village life. Marshall introduces us to a nine-year old girl, who is sold to a geisha house for child labour. The beautiful girl becomes the victim of jealousy and competition there, when the head of geishas madam Hatsumomo (played by Li Gong) insults and victimizes her. However, her troubles come to an end, mostly, when she runs into "Chairman" on a bridge, who is a businessman wrapped in mystery. She admires the geisha accompanying the Chairman and develops soft feelings for him. The Chairman (played by Ken Watanabe) rescues her, and she lands up in another geisha house.

Memoirs of geisha now fast-forwards to the geisha's teenage years, where she becomes the subject of adoration and envy at the geisha house, headed by veteran geisha Mameha. The teenage years of the geisha are played by Ziyi Zhang, who takes on the role of a dignified, disciplined and graceful geisha. Now, her name is Sayuri.

The name geisha has often been used to denote a prostitute. Now, geisha Sayuri describes herself as an artist. One can reach the conclusion that geisha, as portrayed by Memoirs of A Geisha looks at the creed as a sort of trophy wives, more concubines than prostitutes.

At her new abode, she attracts attention of several male suitors, who compete to conquer her. But geisha Sayuri still yearns for the Chairman. Sayuri is torn between her romantic feelings and her destiny as a geisha.

From the serenity of the geisha life, Sayuri is pitchforked into the unpredictability of wartime Japan, when things change irrevocably. Chairman appears on the scene and spirits her away. Sayuri finds herself in a remote rural locale, where she becomes a manual laborer again. After the War, Japan is gradually westernized. Sayuri once again dons her geisha attire and attempts to reach the Chairman.

Rob Marshall and screenwriter Robin Swicord have done a beautiful job of picturising Arthur Golden's 448-page celebrated work. Memoirs of A Geisha, which wanders through 145 minutes captures vintage Japan in excellent cinematography. A very watchable film. However, at times, the script is too weak to hold the plot and strains. Though Zhang and Watanabe -- both have little experience in Hollywood -- have put up good performances, the movie's obsession with the beauty of rural Japan makes you think the emphasis is more on camera than acting. comparatively, there is less emphasis on character development than the Japanese landscape.

Memoirs of A Geisha stays true to the original novel. There are few good movies coming out of Hollywood every year. Memoirs of A Geisha is not in India yet, but don't miss it when it comes.






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