I liked the movie. It was great on the big screen, not as good as a DVD on my TV screen. I guess some of the scenes are "too pretty", but I did enjoy the story. I read the book, too. How can a white Western guy write this???
The issue of whether or not non-Japanese starred in the film is a non-starter. The movie was let down by otherwise perfectly good actors being stifled in their performances by having to act in English. It's difficult to emote properly when you don't know where the stresses come. Watanbe's English positively contributed to his role in Last Samurai, but here it is poor.
The worst bit, and frankly it spoiled the whole thing for me, is the ludicrous modern dance routine. The wife smiled, and said it was "A bit strange." She's one for understatement. She extended it to the appearance of the geisha themselves, who look all far too much like modern models instead of the other-worldly figures they would have been - after all, it was a completely unique aesthethic. Still, litle point in complaining: Hollywood always plays with reality, that's its function.
The book on the otherhand, though I was conditioned to not like it by the story of how it was written, is actually very good, and a solid reminder of just how far the country moved, even in the post-war period. Apart from a few details, you could swear the lifestyle of the girls would have fitted into 19th, 18th or even 17th century (whoops, bit of colonialism here) Japan.
Well it looked good and probably deserved Best Cinematography (or should it have been Best Production Design?). But in the end the English distanced my suspension of disbelief and even I could see that the hairstyle makeup and dancing had been substantially changed to cater to a modern American audience (it's where the box office is afterall) Nor do I think Japanese at the time were prudish enough to wear a weird cotton gown in the sento. (Don't want nudity put your scene elsewhere)
For a Japanese look at the Geisha life I'd give The Geisha House (Kinji Fukasaku) a look. Set in 1950s Kyoto it shows the life of a maid in a Teahouse becoming a Maiko-san. (then a Geisha? I'll have to look at it again )
Last edited by Belton on June 20th, 2006 6:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Belton wrote:Nor do I think Japanese at the time were prudish enough to wear a weird cotton gown in the sento. (Don't want nudity put your scene elsewhere)
There are some onsen where you are forbidden to enter naked. And not for prudish reasons, but for religious reasons. There is one on Sakurajima (the active volcano in Kagoshima). It's a kon'yoku onsen (kon'yoku = men and women bathing together), which usually implies nudity, but because the spring is sacred (Shinto?) ground, bathers have to enter in a heavy cotton yukata.
So the MemGei scene could be accurate...
You're right that it's unlikely though. I've been to tons of onsen, and that's the only one where nudity was forbidden.
I bought it on DVD, but it was really too hollywood for me. The dance routines (as someone pointed out) weren't realistic. I'd much rather have had the genuine article. If they'd put some genuine stuff as a documentary on the DVD I'd have been happy. But no, just the usual behind the scenes stuff. Also having watched countless japanese films in japanese, the use of English felt completely wrong. It's like watching anime with american dubbing.
So overall, I liked the scenery (and spotting places I've been to, particularly on the end credits), but...
I watched the movie and read the book, but for me it's not quite right. I recommend reading Geisha of Gion, by Mineko Iwasaki, it does give a better picture, If I compare the books, the latter gave a better look on a Geisha's life. I did enjoy the movie, but it was too Hollywood.
I'm usually not a praying man, but if you're up there, please save me Superman!!
Mineko Iwasaki was the primary source for memoirs of a geisha. She actually ended up suing the author of the book for comprising her anonymity and for deformation of geisha. She said especially because she was the base for the main character in memoirs of a geisha. The author denied these claims but Iwasaki did end up winning the case. Just a bit of info. I do see some similarities I must admit.