Designated for six Academy Awards, and winner of 3, Memoirs Of A Geisha holds its own as one of the best films of 2005. Veteran Hollywood screenwriter Robin Swicord does a superb job of evolving Arthur Golden’s bestselling novel to the big screen. This film has all the elements of a classic drama jealousy, politics, intrigue, forbidden love, and a sufficiency of internal and external conflicts of varying types. Viewers in search of a standard Hollywood smash hit will be significantly disappointed, but those who appreciate a good character-driven film which takes the time to develop the incentives of its cast and build to a climax will discover an excellent gem which offers a welcome escape from reality.
Memoirs Of A Geisha is recounted from the viewpoint of a 9 years old Eastern girl named Chiyo [ Ziyi Zhang ]. Born into a poor fishing family, Chiyo and her sister are sold into slavery by their father. Chiyo is soon separated from her sister and unearths herself in a geisha house where her new master, Mum [ Kaori Momoi ], will establish her destiny. Though only nine years old, Chiyo sparks the anger of the much older Hatsumomo [ Li Gong ], the most celebrated geisha of the house, who accurately perceives Chiyo as a fitting rival.
Li Gong is fantastic in her role as the vindictive, yet human, adversary, and her character manages to have Chiyo removed from geisha faculty and sentenced to the life of a common slave. However, Chiyo’s life takes a turn for the better following an opportunity skirmish with The Chairman [ Ken Watanabe ]. Flanked by 2 geisha, The CEO extends his kindness to Chiyo, prompting her to develop a lifetime crush and to dream of one day changing into a geisha herself. Chiyo’s wish comes true when a geisha from another house, Mameha [ Michelle Yeoh ], offers to personally teach her, setting up an inevitable conflict between the two and Hatsumomo and her understudy. Meanwhile, the horrors of war and her lifelong pursuit of The Chairman’s love burden Chiyo with additional hardships. Though some traditionalists and geisha experts might take issue with the portrayal of geishas typically, the film certainly offers an interesting glimpse into a world and culture most Americans will find interesting. Regardless of its 2 hour and 25 minute running time, Memoirs Of A Geisha is an entertaining film that seems much shorter in duration. Like most films evolved from a novel, people who enjoyed the book will either love it or hate it depending on how well they understand the switch to the big-screen. But even those that hate it must admit the costume and set design are delightful and leave small room for improvement. At times, the cast speaks with heavy accents which can be confusing at moments, but overall, the scenes flow well from one to the following. With the exception of some American actors close to the conclusion [ Ted Levine of Monk celebrity plays a US military Colonel ], the bulk of the cast is composed of Chinese and Jap actors / actresses who are comparatively unknown to American audiences although Ken Watanabe might be recognizable given recent roles in The Last Samurai [ 2003 ] and Batman Starts [ 2005 ]. The utilization of this cast helps focus audience attention on the merits of the film itself and not on a cast of stars, and this helps, rather than obstructs, the film. As such, Memoirs Of A Geisha is a film most fans of the genus will thoroughly enjoy.