Starring: Zhang Ziyi, Ken Watanabe, Michelle Yeoh
Director: Rob Marshall
Running Time: 143 mins
Memoirs Of A Geisha is an American film about a young Japanese girl who is taken into a geisha school, learning the ways of the ambiguous profession during the first half of the 20th Century.
Despite this being a very stylistic and atmospheric drama, I couldn’t get through this film without feeling really bored. It’s a deep insight into a very controversial and misunderstood aspect of Japanese culture, but it’s often a pretentious, overly slow-paced story that’s not really engaging at all, and seeing as it lasts almost two and a half hours, it gets really tiring.
However, I’ll start with the best thing about this film is that it is aesthetically very good-looking. It blends all sorts of aspects of Japan’s culture and history, on screen always having a relatively dark or gloomy-looking atmosphere in the back of shot, with the more elegant and artistic geisha imagery in the foreground.
And that’s an interesting contrast when you look at the story of the main character, and her development into one of the most famous geisha in Japan. It shows that, whilst you have this very elegant façade of the geisha, the controversial and ambiguous undertones of the profession, regarding whether or not the women are prostitutes, and that was very interesting within the story.
However, that’s where my intrigue effectively stopped with this film. The main problem with it is that it’s so heavily based on the main character, and seeing as I felt it very tough to get a strong emotional connection with her, none of the more dramatic stuff in this film was hard-hitting enough.
And the fact that that theme continues all the way through the film just makes it so tough to watch, because you’ve got so much drama happening, yet seeing as I just didn’t care enough, I grew more and more bored as the film went on, and being over nearly two and a half hours, this is a real challenge to get through.
However, the worst thing about this film, although it’s a little bit pedantic, is the fact that it’s all in English. I generally prefer to see these sort of films in their native language with subtitles, Letters From Iwo Jima being a good example, and even so, I don’t usually mind it in English so much, but in this film, the lack of Japanese really ruins the atmosphere and just constantly annoyed me throughout.
So, overall, despite being a very good-looking film, with an interesting underlying contrast, this was just too long and not emotionally impacting enough to be properly engaging.