Saturday, January 07, 2006

Memoirs of a Geisha

After a short wait, we were finally able to watch Memoirs of a Geisha. I have to admit that the movie was not quite how I expected it to be. Sure the kimonos were fabulous and their dances performed were more than just simple. In fact, my little niece is still awed by it that she wants to be a geisha herself and practices her dancing with such fervor. Warning: Beware of flying fans when visiting our house. Not to mention that my other niece seems eager to learn how to stop a boy dead in his tracks merely by walking past. But I divagate so back to the movie.

The movie is based on Arthur Golden's best-seller, a faux-memoir about the geisha life in Japan before and after World War II, the movie follows the strikingly blue-eyed Sayuri (Though in the book, Sayuri's eyes were actaully grey) who, at age 9, is sold by her impoverished family to work as a servant at a geisha house. Adopted by a greedy old crone called Mother, taken care of by Auntie, befriended by Pumpkin, and terrorized by a grand-diva geisha named Hatsumomo.

In Golden's richly detailed novel, you learned about the intricate training geishas undergo to become, literally, living works of art. But that's what is lacking in this movie. It only briefly delves into the arcane rituals of "geishahood." For those unfortunate ones who were not able to read the book, the movie would indeed be lacking in most aspects when one wants to understand what it is like to become a geisha.

Let's not forget about the love story. The heroine's knight in shining armor happens to be called Chairman. They met a long time ago when a little Chiyo was sobbing on a footbridge. Prince Charming stopped and offered her some sweets. From then on, Chiyo/Sayuri "loved" the Chairman. But please let's not go there!

It is disappointing because instead of meaning and depth, the movie gave us kimonos, cherry petals and snowflakes as eye candies and nothing more. They failed to convey what was so special about the fragile world of the geisha. It was more fun reading (as always) about how Mameha and Sayuri always outwitting Hatsumomo and Pumpkin throughout the story.

The part I liked the most in the movie was Sayuri's dance in preparation for her mizuage bidding. Yes, a meiko's virginity is highly important and can be auctioned off and be given to the highest bidder. Below is a picture of Sayuri's "moving" dance which caught and impressed everyone (even Hatsumomo).

As the story progressed, in comes the problem -World War II which affected everyone in Japan. Nobody was safe and special contacts were needed in order to survive. Nobu (a wealthy man in love with Sayuri) was the one who saved her from peril and found a place where she can stay until the war was over.

After the war, as people were starting to pick up the pieces again, the geishas resumed their positions once more - beside their men. Sayuri eventually ended up with her beloved Chairman after Nobu decided that he would no longer pursue his love for Sayuri. Again, please let's not dwell on the love story part.All in all, I have always liked the book Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. It is in fact one of my many favorites. This movie however did not give justice to it. In the movie, you always have something to look at — whether its Sayuri's exquisitely painted face or the perfect twirl of a gorgeously flowered umbrella. But the storytelling is soap-opera banal.

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