I’ve decided to catch up on a few movies this week. Starting with Memoirs of a Geisha.
Watched it last evening and must say that it was a compelling and beautifully made movie. Despite, some of its not so good reviews, I enjoyed the movie immensely.
The cinematography was sheer visual poetry. Moments of grand melodrama that will linger for a while – little Chiyo getting beaten and Mother increasing the volume of the radio so as to drown her screams; Chiyo running through that endless corridor after meeting the Chairman; then as Sayuri, her helplessness and fear, when the old Baron tries to compromise her; the scene when Sayuri emerges on stage and performs this exquisite dance are some of them. Opulent costumes of silk, beautiful kimonos and oh those huge shoes that the women wear : how on earth does anyone walk in them?
Those sweeping vistas : where did they find them? They soothe the eyes, as Aquadreamer commented. The Geisha district comes alive with narrow lanes, tea-houses and theatres, ornate temples and crowded alleyways. Those cherry blossom trees, especially the last scene where she walks to meet the Chairman will remain embedded in my memory for a while. And to think much of it was filmed in California itself!
The childhood sequences were a little long drawn though the young Sayuri (Chiyo as she was called, played by Koji Yakusho) did quite a commendable job. Another actress who is worth watching out for is Gong Li as Hatsumomo, Sayuri’s arch rival. The English was difficult to understand in some parts. I have read the book ages ago so I didn’t really remember much of the story. But I thought it was job well done to recreate an epic of this nature on screen.
Some interesting facts about the movie:
– The movie is adapted from a novel by Arthur Golden in 1997, which spent 2 years on The New York Times best-seller list, sold more than four million copies in English, and has been translated into 32 languages.
– Directed by Rob Marshall (of Chicago fame) and his crew created the film’s exotic and elaborate world on three soundstages in Los Angeles and also constructed an entire period geisha district, recreating ancient streets and even building a serpentine river on a sprawling ranch in Ventura County, California.
– In Northern California, the company filmed at the Sacramento Railroad Museum, in the streams of the American River in California Gold Rush country, and on rugged coastal cliffs.
– The production continued on to Japan to capture authentic locations. These sites included Kiyomizu-tera, a Buddhist temple on stilts founded in 778 and rebuilt in 1633, and the Buddhist Yoshimine-tera, which dates back to 1029.
– One of the film’s final sequences (where Sayuri meets the Chairman) was the still waters at the Shinto Heian Jingu shrine in the heart of Kyoto.
Worth watching, if you haven’t already!