Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha

4.4 55
Director: Rob Marshall

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This film, based on the novel by Arthur Golden, unfolds from the perspective of Chiyo (Zhang Ziyi), a girl who, at the age of nine, is sold to a geisha house in Kyoto in the early 1930s. Here, she learns that becoming a geisha can be the single path to wealth and independence for a woman. The head geisha of her house, however, Hatsumomo (Gong Li), is bitterly jealous…  See more details below


This film, based on the novel by Arthur Golden, unfolds from the perspective of Chiyo (Zhang Ziyi), a girl who, at the age of nine, is sold to a geisha house in Kyoto in the early 1930s. Here, she learns that becoming a geisha can be the single path to wealth and independence for a woman. The head geisha of her house, however, Hatsumomo (Gong Li), is bitterly jealous of Chiyo and abuses her at every opportunity. Eventually Chiyo is taken under the wing of Hatsumomo's rival, Mameha (Michelle Yeoh), by far the most famous and successful geisha in their district. Under Mameha's tutelage, Chiyo becomes Sayuri, the most legendary geisha in the nation, skilled in all areas, from conversation to dance, and sought after by seemingly every man alive...except for the one whom she has secretly longed for since she began her training, The Chairman (Ken Watanabe) -- a man who showed her kindness at a time when her view of the world had turned the most bleak. Now as World War II approaches, Japan stands at the brink of a new era and Sayuri must confront the possibility that history will leave all that she has worked for behind.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Critics and readers embraced Arthur Golden's debut novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, an imaginative Cinderella story set in pre-World War II Japan; and its runaway bestseller status ensured a sumptuous Hollywood treatment. On the way to the screen, a controversy arose over director Rob Marshall’s decision to cast Chinese actresses as the central Japanese characters -- and critics seemed to smell blood, subjecting the film to unfairly middling reviews. Not surprisingly, Hollywood felt differently, awarding Oscars to the sumptuous Memoirs for its art direction, cinematography, and costume design. Ziyi Zhang and Michelle Yeoh, the female leads from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, reunite here as Sayuri, the former slave girl who becomes one of Japan’s most desirable geishas, and Mameha, the younger woman’s instructor and mentor. Gong Li, another superstar of Hong Kong cinema, contributes a stellar performance as Sayuri’s unscrupulous rival, Hatsumomo. Both women compete for the attentions of an important dignitary known only as the Chairman (Ken Watanabe), whom Sayuri has loved ever since meeting him by chance while still a slave. What makes the film especially mesmerizing is its retention of one of the book’s most fascinating elements: The relationship between the women and the men they entertain. Geishas represent a values system that endured for centuries. Their clients, meanwhile, are the powerful modernizers of Japan, the creators of a military machine that the emperor uses to plunge the nation into war. Still, the main story here is of a woman’s love and her single-minded pursuit of a seemingly impossible dream. Zhang is, as usual, radiantly beautiful, and she conveys the heartbreak of someone who sacrifices much to gain precious little. Her performance is a revelation, although it’s just one of many that makes Memoirs of a Geisha a lush and rewarding screen treat.
All Movie Guide
Beautiful but boring, Memoirs of a Geisha is worth watching once for the sake of its rich imagery alone. Unfortunately, without a well-paced narrative or particularly compelling story, its allure is only skin deep. While many literary adaptations suffer from a lack of focus and become chaotic in an attempt to include shallow bits from every vein and subplot in the book, Geisha succeeds in paring down its basic storyline into a fairly coherent and uncomplicated idea. Sadly, the filmmakers fail to provide insight into the inner life or emotional struggle of the main character, Saiyuri, and this is the element that would have given this story some meaning. The events of the film are clear enough and the audience is rarely confused about what is happening, but so is it rarely inspired to care. Despite some use of the protagonist's inner monologue, the audience is left too often on the outside of Saiyuri's most defining experiences: her climb to geisha stardom, her bitter rivalry with geisha Hatsumomo, and her intense love for a man known as The Chairman. Even when her virginity is auctioned off to the highest bidder as a means to raise her notoriety, we aren't sure how she feels about this, if indeed she feels anything at all. The ornate sets and costumes depict pre and postwar Japan with glorious meticulousness and even the movements of the men and women of this time and place are all perfectly sculpted to the period. If only the external lives of its characters alone were enough, Memoirs of a Geisha would be a great film indeed.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:

Special Features

Closed Caption; 11 behind the scenes featurettes including "The Look of a Geisha (inside the wardrobe and make-up)," "The Music of the Film," "Geisha Bootcamp (see how the actresses became geishas), "A Geisha's Dance" and more!; Director Rob Marshall and co-producer John DeLuca audio commentary; Production audio commentary (costume designer, production designer, editor)

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Ziyi Zhang Sayuri
Ken Watanabe The Chairman
Michelle Yeoh Mameha
Koji Yakusho Nobu
Youki Kudoh Pumpkin
Kaori Momoi Mother
Kaori Momoi Mother
Tsai Chin Auntie
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa The Baron
Suzuka Ohgo Chiyo
Gong Li Hatsumomo
Randall Duk Kim Dr. Crab
Mako Sakamoto
Kenneth Tsang The General
Thomas Ikeda Mr. Bekku
Zoe Weizenbaum Young Pumpkin
Shizuko Hoshi Sayuri Narrator

Technical Credits
Rob Marshall Director
Colleen Atwood Costumes/Costume Designer
Gary Barber Executive Producer
Dion Beebe Cinematographer
Roger Birnbaum Executive Producer
Bobby Cohen Executive Producer
Liza Dalby Consultant/advisor
John DeLuca Choreography,Co-producer
Jann K. Engel Set Decoration/Design
Robert Fechtman Set Decoration/Design
Lucy Fisher Producer
Lois G. Hoyos Set Decoration/Design
Luis Fernando Hoyos Set Decoration/Design
Francine Maisler Casting
John Myhre Production Designer
Eric N. Neffron Asst. Director
John Patrick Prichett Sound/Sound Designer
John Pritchett Sound/Sound Designer
Richard Romig Set Decoration/Design
Pietro Scalia Editor
Maya Shimoguchi Set Decoration/Design
Steven Spielberg Producer
Patrick M. Sullivan Art Director
Robin Swicord Screenwriter
Noriko Watanabe Makeup
Patricia Whitcher Executive Producer
Doug Wick Producer
John Williams [composer] Score Composer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Memoirs of a Geisha
1. Start
2. The Hanamachi
3. Hatsumomo
4. "You Are to Become Geisha"
5. The Oath
6. Search for Her Sister
7. Over the Rooftops
8. Loss & Purpose
9. Fifteen
10. A Most Unexpected Visitor
11. A Moving Work of Art
12. One Look
13. Sayuri
14. Sumo
15. The Eel and the Cave
16. Every Man's Fantasy
17. Cherry Blossoms
18. The Baron's Kimono
19. 15,000 Yen
20. Hatsumomo's End
21. War Years
22. Back to the Hanamachi
23. Entertaining Americans
24. Hot Springs
25. Pumpkin's Surprise
26. The Heart Dies
27. Forgiveness
28. Memoirs of Another Kind


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Memoirs of a Geisha 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 55 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is not the over-wrought heart-rending sap that some may want it to be, but it is very true to the way most people behave, and especially in the reserved manner of the Japanese. In my book everyone involved in this deserves a huge round of kudos, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys beautiful things, and incredibly realized films. The romance is wonderful. There are flashes of humor and some of the script is pure poetry (and as a poet you can believe me on that!) I could go on all day, but let me just say this.  The movie is close to 2 1/2 hours long, but the story and scenery are so captivating, it seems so much quicker. The costumes are fantastic and it's no wonder they are nominated for Oscars. Ziyi Zhang especially gave one of the best performances I have seen in years, at least. Just look at her physically shaking during her last scene with Ken Watanabe. This complete giving over to the emotion of the character is nearly unsurpassed in anything I've seen in years, and I'm a huge cinemaphile. That's not to mention the flawless way she carried the postures and demeanor of the child star that played her young self through-out, giving a sense of consistency that I have almost never seen done this well. It's early impossible to remember that these two actresses are not really the same person with the way their performances meshed.     
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a must read if you are interested in a different culture than that of your own. To me this was very eyeopening, very extreme from our way of living in the West.
Carsten More than 1 year ago
I love this movie! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ang ganda ng kwento at nakakainspire....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading the book, I was extremely excited to see the movie. I wanted to see the entire book spring to life. The movie was a beautiful event to see, but would be confusing if you had not read the book. The movie spent too much time on the early part of her life and glossed over the best part of her becoming a geisha. All in all do not waste your time on this long, boring movie. I would like my money and time back. Don't waste your time too!
Guest More than 1 year ago
THis is by far a great film!!!! Gong Li delivers a perfect Hatsumomo and Ziyi Zhang brings Sayuri to life!!!! Brilliant
Guest More than 1 year ago
Im 16 and my best friends took me to this movie. I on no level wanted to see it, it didn't look like my kind of movie. When we got to the theater I tried to get them to see a different movie, but they wouldn't. I absolutely LOVED this movie. I was so happy they took me to see it. It was such an amazing story and had me in happy tears at the end. I still thank them for making me go see that movie. If your not sure please watch it you'll love it!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The experience of this movie was mixed for me. I have all ready read the book. I guess my expectations were too high, as they often are when a book is adapted into a movie. The movie offered a lot, although there were a few things that I probably wouldn't have understood had I not read the book first. I know that books into movies are altered for the simple fact that most people have a short attention span and a movie must keep a captive audience. But, the culmination of the romance and the story between Sayuri and the Chairman was anti-climactic for me because Sayuri's journey and everything she went through was "compressed for time." The book also tells what happens after that final meeting between Sayuri and the Chairman, up until the death of the Chairman. On the other hand, the movie offered me a face to the characters I had grown to admire. It was beautifully created and acted. Another good thing about this movie that is so hard to find is that it can support itself. One can see this movie and love it and not wonder what the book must have been like. While so many adaptations fall short. The movie itself, the set designs and the costumes were absolutely gorgeous. A definite visual masterpiece. I would recommend this movie to anyone who loves a good romance and a wonderfully acted movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this movie is a touching and moving film that you can watch like all kinds of times. when i first saw the cover i thought it was going to be dumb but when i watched it it was really good i would recommend this film to everyone
Guest More than 1 year ago
When the movie first started I thought it was going to be interesting. I was somewhat wrong though. The movie focuses to much on her childhood and not enough on her adult life as a geisha. Also it is very long and can get boring at certain parts. This movie is really just okay although Ziyi Zhang gives a strong performance.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Director Rob Marshall captures many great aspects of this film. A wonderful story and a wonderful production but some parts of the book were changed and the scenes did not fit well. This movie I would not recommend to everyone due to the story line and the intensive nature of humans. Parents should be strongly cautioned before letting their kids see this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite movies ever! it's amazing. Although I have the hardest time reading the book and watching the movie, I thought this still portrayed most of the book. The book just went into a lot more depth about the culture of geishas. Kudos to both the book and movie. I will remember them for ever. I even did a National History Day project on geishas becaus of seeing the movie. So if you want to see a really good movie or read a really good book, I recommend Memoirs of a Geisha.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this movie very much. I thought it was the best movie since the ten commandments with charlton heston. I would recomend this movie for ages 10 and up. At least there is a person in this movie that children want to be and adults want to be with. I hope that you will enjoy this movie as much as I did. Natasha Bogutzki age 12
Guest More than 1 year ago
''Memoirs of a Geisha'' was powerfully alive, unfolding like a waking dream, haunting, magical, and absolutely imposible to forget.I was surprised that there were actually some people that disliked this film! Well, do not let other peoples' opinions put you down.This film was a provoacative and beautiful portrait. It is a beautiful and sad tale of longing for love that touches your heart and breaks it at the same time. The book was also marvelous and vivid as the movie. If you have never read the book, I suggest that you start now! No highschool English teacher should pass the year without reading this book!! I think we could all understand Sayuri and the female friendship and power. We have all been in Sayuri's place at some point in our lives.I think that this is the best Cinderella story that has ever been in this new generation.This film is so mesmerizing and it draws you into it as if the story were real and as if Sayuri were a real, breathing character. You will not be disapointed!
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I saw the movie for the first time, all I could think about was the art involved. It's all done very well. The kimonos are wonderfully embroidered and reflect each character in its own way to emphasize their characteristics. I couldn't belive that the book was actully made into a movie and I'm very glad it was. It gave the actors and actresses a chance to express emotion in a way that most people overlook. It gave the artists a chance to experiment with their own skills with the kimono and the sets that had to be built and most importantly, it gave the author of a wonderful book the chance to see his book transform into a beautifully written and directed movie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like the book, I have a love/hate relationship with this movie. Some fluff and triteness certainly could have been trimmed from this tale, but overall I could not resist it. The raw story of children sold by parents without better options touched a nerve. So did the truth that some people are forced to do the best they can, and cannot hope or dare to dream for lives that others may take for granted. I appreciated the characters and some of their less admirable actions even better after seeing this on screen, although some other characters get lesser treatment here than in the book. This is a shame for those who haven't read it; their full stories were poignant and moving. I must admit I found myself more fond of characters other than the protagonist, and this probably hurt my enjoyment of this story told in first-person. She simply did not seem to have learned so much from her experience, or to have fully matured in either version.

The film is absolutely gorgeous, and the work put into cinematography and costuming was impressive. On the other hand, I disagreed with the slight modernization (Westernization?) of the geishas' standards of beauty and dance. I wasn't as captivated by the choreograph as I'd hoped to be, given that Sayuri's great talent was supposed to be dance. I found myself carried away by other sensory aspects of the film: musical score, vibrant colors, lighting, the feeling of the changes in weather and the seasons at different turning points in the film.

Originally I was skeptical of the decision to cast several Chinese actresses in leading roles, but I loved their performances. Gong Li is the believably beautiful but broken "diva," and Michelle Yeoh is the success, her rival, who has managed to keep a lock on her inner self to become the perfect illusion. Koji Yakusho is perfect as noble but prickly Nobu. The idea of private vs. public realities, and the illusory nature of their art and confusing relationships with their clients/patrons, and colleagues/rivals, are portrayed by all the actors very well. It offers an interesting peek into a mysterious world, and some very elegant warfare!

Still, some things about it grated on me, such as the efforts to mimic Japanese speech and poetic turns of phrase ( I did not feel the book or screenplay captured it well), the focus on Sayuri's atypical beauty, and the Cinderella quality of the tale. I was disappointed when what I perceived as the less-real-and-more-saccharine Cinderella aspects appeared to overwhelm, since I appreciated the grittier aspects of the story. In short, I thought it could have been more compelling if the creators had reigned in the romanticism and exoticism somewhat.

The ambiguity of the message of the women's role and other controversial aspects (interpretation of mizuage) were difficult for the film makers to adequately explain. The movie takes great pains to point out that the geisha were not prostitutes (over and over again the characters find ways to state this), but then the depiction of mizuage as a type of bidding for deflowering a virgin maiko makes this contention absurd. I applaud them for not shying away from the controversy anyway. The whole subject of mizuage is a battle scene, and has been followed by legal threats, undercover anthropologists, and all kinds of interesting follow-up reading.
librachic More than 1 year ago
A really emotional movie about a girl who does everything she can to be with the one she loves.It is a really good show i enjoy it as it explores the colourful world of being a geisha and even the bad parts.i would totally recommend it as the the triumph at the end is makes the show worthwhile
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago