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:: Memoirs Of A Geisha

“The word geeeeisa means artist” crones the oikya (geisha house) Mother. Smoking an elegant long cigarette holder, she says to Sayuri, “…You are proving to be quite expensive…” And so Sayuri the geisha (Ziyi Zhang) is. So expensive, so unique with her grey almond eyes that Hatsumomo (Li Ghong) feels the need to destroy her. In a catfight moment better than any daytime television, she hisses, “I will destroy you.”

Yet, not everyone feels the need to destroy Sayuri, and big sister Mahama (Michelle Yeah) takes the young geisha under her wings to cultivate her in the craft of artistry, entertaining, dancing, artistry, the illusion of seduction. In a memorable scene, Mayama makes Sayuri prove she is ‘ready’ for Geisha-hood when she can ‘stop a man in his track by one look.’ As director Rob Marshall’s audience gasps, Sayuri shyly yet seductively eyes a bicycle rider until he topples off.

Sayuri’s journey is that of a Cinderella tale, a geisha blessed or cursed with unique beauty who works her way from being a maid to the most memorable geisha in Osaka in the thirties. Characterisation is strong, a feature carried on from the book. In a perfectly balanced plot, there is the good fairy Mamama, the evil stepmother, the Mama who is not so much evil as indifferent to Sayuri’s quality of happiness. Chairman Ken (Ken Wantanabe) plays the very diplomatically kind, almost fatherly Prince Charming. Lastly, the role of jealous stepsister is the oh so delightfully bitchy Hatsumomo.

Even if you watched the movie with the sound off, apart from entertaining Bold and the Beautiful antics, the cinematography is spectacular on its own. Traditional Japanese gardens entrenched in blossoms falling like snow. Metal looking Japanese steeples with a smackering of snow on it. These scenes are breathtaking enough on its own without the drama.

Marshall directed the film ‘Chicago’, so the dance scenes are exquisite and trembling drums build momentum to the strong theatrical tension. The movie is a wonderful feat of dramatic and flowing creative energy, also attributed to the famous producer, Steven Spielberg.

For those who love the book, you will be enchanted by the movie. However it does not outshine Arthur Golden’s pages. This is by no fault of the stunningly created memoirs, it is because the time frame cannot do justice to Golden’s descriptive memoirs, a world that is perhaps too great (or long) to be conveyed accurately on screen.