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Memoirs of a Geisha Review Thread

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Memoirs of a Geisha Review Thread

Old 12-21-05, 11:00 AM
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Memoirs of a Geisha Review Thread

My girlfriend and I got tickets to a sneak preview of this last night and I was fairly unimpressed. It's a perfectly competent movie for the most part, but I don't understand how it could blow anyone away enough to garner so much Oscar buzz. All the main actors & actresses put in solid performances and the story was well told, but nothing to make the claims of 'A story like mine has never been told' sound like anything but pretentious bullshit.

It also felt like the writer, for lack of a better way of explaining it, was just switching genders and slightly altering parts from a martial arts movie. There are quite a few times throughout the movie where we receive some supposedly mysterious bit of information through dialogue like 'A geisha is wrapped in shadows and mystery is the key to her being' or 'The power of a geisha is to stop a man with but a single glance'. It just felt a little silly in parts, especially once I realized how many of these lines seemed like they could just as easily appear in a movie about ninja or samurai. I haven't read the book, so I'm not sure if the fault for this lies with the source material or the screenwriter.

A couple other comments that contain some potential spoilers:

Spoiler:
I had problem with how language is handled in the film. At the beginning, characters are speaking Japanese. Then the movie pulls a 'Hunt for Red October' and they're suddenly speaking English with an accent, presumably so the audience doesn't have to read subtitles. But then, when the Americans show up, everybody's speaking English. And the Japanese are not speaking broken English, but are talking with just as much eloquence as they have been throughout the entire story. This really made no sense to me. Perhaps there's an explanation, but if there is, I'm pretty sure it wasn't in the movie.

I also think it's possible that a lot of people will be turned off to the main plot if they give it any thought. I mean, basically an important older man finds a 9-yr. old fascinating and orchestrates her becoming a high-class hooker because he's in love with her and wants to hook up with her when she's older. I'm not educated enough on Japanese culture to know if that was normal behavior back in the 1930s and 1940s, but it's certainly not acceptable by the standards of modern civilization. The movie portrays their relationship as some sort of idealized romantic love and I think that will ring hollow to people who are like 'yeah, but he met got interested in her when she was 9...'

A smaller gripe is how they handled Sayuri's performance on the night her virginity was auctioned off. The whole movie beats us over the head with how striking and graceful a geisha is, but then when it comes time to actually see one at her peak, Marshall resorts to jumpy editing and very short shots. Considering that that style wasn't really used throughout the rest of the movie, it felt like he was using editing to mask the fact that geishas' supposedly breath-taking performances really weren't all that interesting to watch.


All in all, none of the above gripes were enough to ruin the movie. The performances were well done and the dynamics between characters within the story were mostly interesting. On a five-star scale, I'd give it three.
Old 12-21-05, 02:01 PM
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I saw this last night as well, and while I do think it was a good movie, IMO it doesn't warrant all the hype it's getting. It has great character development, and the movie, which clocks in around 2 hours 20min doesn't drag like I thought it might. A love story involving Geishas that can keep my attention for that long has to be pretty good. :P
Old 12-21-05, 02:07 PM
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As I said to a co-worker...

"It's like a serious, Japanese version of Mean Girls."

Shot beautifully, but nothing outstanding in the acting. I've seen these same performances from these gals in other movies. The only funny thing was that Ken Watanabe seemed to do his best Chow Yun Fat impersonation.

And once again, I am teased with seeing either naked or topless Ziyi Zhang and I am let down.
Old 12-22-05, 03:27 AM
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Ziyi Zhang and Gong Li in one movie. What's not to love? I really look forward to seeing this movie.
Old 12-28-05, 10:05 AM
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As with most books-to-movies there's almost always some disappointment. This one had a few. Nothing major, just little things. The story follows the same plot, it just takes a few small steps off the path.

The real surprise, and I'm not sure why I was, was how it was put together. Total "hollywood" film. I was expecting something with more of an indy or artistic type flair. Maybe because I had just wathched some Wong Kar Wai, Zhang Yimou, and Ang Lee films the week leading up to the release.

Still, the movie was fantastic. And somehow a 2 & 1/2 hour movie felt like it was only 10 minutes. I'm hoping for an extended release when it hits dvd. I know they shot more for the ending because there's pics in the book "MOAG, A Portrait Of The Film".

I'm going back tomorrow for another viewing.
Old 01-25-06, 05:51 AM
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I loved it. I thought all the women were amazing and Ken Watanabe is just such a great guy. I mean it seems with every movie I see him in I just dig him more and more. Also, the music in the movie was amazing.

It's too bad everyone seems to be half assed on this movie but that's life.

Last edited by Giantrobo; 01-25-06 at 08:01 AM.
Old 01-25-06, 07:01 AM
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I also am hoping for an extended, unrated release.
Old 01-25-06, 08:41 AM
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There was something about the movie that I cant quite put my finger on that left me wanting more. Solid movie that I enjoyed, but I think since I loved the book so much, it just missed its mark a little bit. I did think Gong Li and Zhang were great in it however, but I could watch those 2 for hours reading a newspaper and probably be entertained.
Old 01-25-06, 02:55 PM
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i loved this movie to, i don't understand why it's not being a serious contender for oscars. i think every aspect of it was great, the acting, directing, cinematography and score. great film.
Old 05-03-06, 06:49 PM
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just rented the dvd and watched this film for the first time. it was an excellent movie and really exceeded my expectations. it was indeed very "hollywood," (read: straighforward) but i think that's what I liked about it- not artsy like "Crouching Tiger" or movies of that sort (not that these two should be compared anyways).

I think the scenery was great and can't imagine how good they would look in HD (eventual blu-ray release, Sony? Let's hope!)
I did have a few gripes, mainly with the same reaons that the OP stated:
-the english language for Americans and geishas? huh?
-the editing during the main "geisha" scene in the movie
-the whole 9 year old thing

i was surprised at the finger scene with Mother. Seemed surprising to get away with that in a PG-13

Also, I found it more enjoyable to watch with subtitles on (some of the names and locations are easier to follow that way).

I have the 1st commentary on right now; enjoyable. will probably NOT view the remaining special features just yet.
all in all, i would say this now goes on my top 10 of 2005 list. I'm going to hold out on buying until it's released in an HD format.

Last edited by AndyCleveland; 05-03-06 at 06:51 PM.
Old 05-05-06, 12:56 PM
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Its like what most have already said, great beginning but so predictible ending. I lost interest towards the end.
Old 05-06-06, 11:38 PM
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After reading the book, I was severly disappointed with the movie. It felt rushed and not fleshed out. What a waste.

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