Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha

4.4 55
Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Rob Marshall, Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Michelle Yeoh


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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

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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 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:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

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 [4:57]
2. The Hanamachi [4:43]
3. Hatsumomo [4:19]
4. "You Are to Become Geisha" [2:40]
5. The Oath [7:44]
6. Search for Her Sister [6:46]
7. Over the Rooftops [4:05]
8. Loss & Purpose [5:34]
9. Fifteen [3:57]
10. A Most Unexpected Visitor [2:35]
11. A Moving Work of Art [7:30]
12. One Look [2:14]
13. Sayuri [5:34]
14. Sumo [5:17]
15. The Eel and the Cave [8:57]
16. Everyman's Fantasy [7:57]
17. Cherry Blossoms [2:47]
18. The Baron's Kimono [4:09]
19. 15,000 Yen [4:57]
20. Hatsumomo's End [5:39]
21. War Years [8:03]
22. Back to the Hanamachi [2:46]
23. Entertaining Americans [4:59]
24. Hot Springs [4:59]
25. Pumpkin's Surprise [4:40]
26. The Heart Dies [2:16]
27. Forgiveness [5:47]
28. Memoirs of Another Kind [8:56]

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