Life is what happens when you are making other plans~ John Lennon
An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind~Gandhi
The time is always right to do what is right~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Memoirs of a Geisha(film)

Memoirs of a Geisha(film)
-2005 film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Arthur Golden
-Stars Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh, Youki Kudoh, and Suzuka Ohgo.
-Ohgo plays the younger version of Sayuri in the movie, which was filmed in northern and southern California with scenes also shot in Kyoto, including the Kiyomizu temple and Fushimi Inari shrine
-The movie tells the story of a young girl named Chiyo Sakamoto, who is sold into slavery by her family. She is then sent to school to learn the ways of Geisha girls. Throughout the movie, she is trying to locate her sister, and how she grows up and becomes a geisha.

Did You Know?
-Maggie Cheung was considered for the role of Mameha
-Yunjin Kim turned down a lead role in the film
-The actresses had only 6 weeks to learn all there is to know about geisha girls
-Zhang Ziyi was allergic to the contact lenses she had to wear

-Neither Gong Li or Suzuka Ohgo could speak English at the time

-Youki Kudoh, who plays an adult Pumpkin, had to learn how to speak with a Japanese accent, even though she was born in Japan and speaks with an American accent from living in the United States for so long

-Throughout the movie, each character seems to represent the 4 main elements of the world: Sayuri is water because of her eyes, Mameha is wind, Pumpkin is wood, and Hatsumomo is fire
-The movie is set in Japan, during the Showa Era. It tells the story of a young girl named Chiyo Sakamoto(as a child Suzuka Ohgo, and later on, Zhang Ziyi), a poor, young Japanese girl who has been sold by her family along with her sister Satsu into a life of slavery by her parents when they were 9. Chiyo is taken is by the manager of a geisha house, Mother(Kaori Momoi), but Satsu is sent to a different house, in the "pleasure district" of the Hanamachi. At the okiya(geisha house), she meets another young girl nicknamed "Pumpkin"(Youki Kudoh). Both are sent to geisha school but Chiyo brings shame to the okiya by attempting to run away. Instead of training to be a geisha, she is given hard work to pay off the debt of her schooling. Hatsumomo(Gong Li), is a beautiful, famous yet cruel geisha who lives at the same okiya. She blackmails Chiyo into ruining a kimono that belongs to a famous geisha named Mameha(Michelle Yeoh). Chiyo is beaten severely in the courtyard by Mother, but Auntie(Tsai Chin) convinces Mother to let her take over the beating. She tells Chiyo that she will "beat you hard, so Mother will not beat you harder." And Mother is seen inside, listening to the radio, turning it up to tune out Chiyo's screams of pain
-Chiyo runs away again, this time seeking Satsu. They arrange to meet by the bridge the next day as soon as night falls and escape together. When she sneaks back into the house, she sees Hatsumomo and a young man named Koichi(Karl Yune) having sex in the shed. Hatsumomo had known Chiyo had snuck off, but hadn't expected her to come back. Mother hears noise in the shed and Hatsumomo shoos Koichi away and asks Chiyo why she came back. Then she makes it look like Chiyo was stealing money. With a potential beating on the way, Chiyo tells Mother that Hatsumomo was having sex with a man. Mother verifies this by reaching under Hatsumomo's kimono and slaps her, telling her basically she is not permitted to see this man again

-Chiyo escapes, once again, to try and escape with her sister. She goes a different way this time. The okiya is locked after Hatsumomo's disgrace, so this forces Chiyo to go across the rooftops, but falls and ends back up in the okiya. Mother tells Chiyo that she has gained great debts and explains Satsu has run away that night, without waiting for Chiyo. She never sees Satsu again and Mother tells her to forget that she had a sister saying "We are your only family now." She then places a package on her stomach, which has a letter(read to her by Auntie; since Chiyo can't read). It reports the death of her mother and then a few weeks later, her father. She has this feeling that she can't sink much lower.
-One day while out on the streets, young Chiyo is greeted by The Chairman(Ken Watanabe), and his geisha companions. She is afraid to meet him eye to eye. He buys her an ice sorbet(kaikigori) and gives her a handkerchief with money in it. He tells her "Don't be afraid to look at me." She now wants to be a geisha so she can one day meet the Chairman. She spends the money, not on food, but on prayer, wishing to see him again. Chiyo is now a young woman, taken under the loving wing of Mameha, who has forgiven her actions as a child. Under her tutelage, Chiyo becomes a maiko(geisha in training) and then takes the name Sayuri, the most famous geisha in all of Gion, Kyoto. Hatsumomo becomes Sayuri's rival and seeks to remove her. Through her work as a geisha, Sayuri reunites with The Chairman and longs to get his attention, but instead has to lead on the Chairman's friend and business partner Nobu(Koji Yakusho), who begins to fall for her. Sayuri gets increasingly more popular and Hatsumomo spreads lies and rumors to ruin Sayuri's reputation. Elsewhere, Mameha starts a bidding war for Sayuri's mizuage(virginity) which will make her a full geisha. Sayuri gets named the lead dancer for the Spring Dances, where she dances amazingly and catches the eyes of bidders, including the Baron(Mameha's danna), who invites Sayuri to his house for a party, gives her a kimono as he finds her stunnningly beautiful and he strips her forcefully as he believes he deserves a look at her naked body
-After the party, Mameha hears what happened and believes the Baron(Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) took Sayuri's virginity, and claims that Sayuri's bids may not come through if she is found to be "worthless". Sayuri cries and tells Mameha that nothing happened and she is not worthless. That night, a bid is finally placed by an elderly doctor known as Doctor Crab, for 15,000 yen- the highest bid for mizuage in history. Mother then chooses to "adopt" Sayuri as the heiress of the okiya, a title Pumpkin and Hatsumomo had been dying for. Mameha tells Sayuri that the bid is down to 2 people: Dr. Crab and the Baron, but Mameha let it go to Dr. Crab because her feelings for the Baron, despite his bid being higher. When she returns home, Sayuri finds Hatsumomo in her room, with the Chairman's handkerchief in her hand and she attempts to burn it. Sayuri and Hatsumomo fight and accidentally start a fire in the house, and finally when sh reaches her breaking point, Hatsumomo intentionally burns the rest of the house and leaves, knowing she has reached rock bottom
-Sayuri's life as a geisha is then cut short by the outbreak of WWII. While the safety of Sayuri and Mameha is ensured by the Chairman, they must work hard. Sayuri and Mameha are separated, with Sayuri going to the hills to work for a kimono maker. After the war, Sayuri is reunited with Mameha, and they become geisha once more to impress an American colonel(Ted Levine) that are going into business with Nobu and the Chairman. Sayuri meets back up with Pumpkin who is now a risque, flirty, escort/prostitute(trying to act like a geisha) and goes on a trip with Nobu, the Chairman, Pumpkin and the Americans to the Anami Islands. While having a conversation in an onsen(hot tub), Sayuri participates in the game "Truth and Lies", starting to explain the "story" of how, when she was a little girl, a "handsome man was kind enough to buy me a cup of sweet ice". Before she can finish, the Chairman interrupts and changes the subject, clearly uncomfortable with the topic
-Afterwards, the Colonel tries to "hire" Sayuri for "services" but is turned down. Nobu saw the incident and confronts Sayuri(with the impression they have made an arrangement), finally confessing his feelings and wants to be her danna. Sayuri is distraught and creates a plan to humiliate herself with the Colonel in front of Nobu. She arranges for Pumpkin to bring Nobu by an abandoned theater at a certain tme, and "stumble" upon Sayuri and the Colonel making love. But, because of her secret hate of Sayuri for being adopted by Mother, Pumpkin brings the Chairman instead, claiming to Sayuri "Now you know how it feels". Sayuri is now convinced she has lost the Chairman for ever.
-A few days later, Sayuri discards the handkerchief of the Chairman's by throwing it off a cliff above the sea, and later gets a call to go to the teahouse. While waiting, Sayuri expects Nobu to arrive, but instead the Chairman comes and finally explains that he knows she is Chiyo by saying "Don't be afraid to look at me, Chiyo". He tells her that he was responsible for sending Mameha to her so that she could complete her dreams of becoming a geisha. Sayuri reveals her love to the Chairman, which has been building for over 15 years. The film ends with their loving embrace and a kiss and a stroll through a beautiful Japanese garden with waterfalls and rocks

  • Zhang Ziyi as Chiyo Sakamoto/Sayuri Nitta
  • Suzuka Ohgo as Young Chiyo Sakamoto
  • Gong Li as Hatsumomo
  • Kaori Momoi as Okasan/Mother
  • Ken Watanabe as Ken Iwamura
  • Michelle Yeoh as Mameha
  • Kōji Yakusho as Nobu
  • Youki Kudoh as Pumpkin
  • Tsai Chin as Auntie
  • Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Baron
  • Cathy Shim as The Baron's Guest
  • Kenneth Tsang as General
  • Karl Yune as Koichi
  • Ted Levine as Colonel Derricks

  • Production
    -The 3 leading non-Japanese actresses(Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh) were put through so called "Geisha boot camp" where they were trained in traditional geisha practices, such as musicianship, dance, tea ceremony
    -On Sept. 29, 2004, it was decided that contemporary Japan looked to modern for the movie, which took place during the 30s and 40s. So most of the scenes were filmed in California. Other scenes were filmed at Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge, Sacramento, Yamashiro's Restaurant in Hollywood, the Japanese Gardens at Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino, Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, Downtown Los Angeles at the Belasco Theatre onn Hill Street.
    -Towards the end of filming, some scenes were actually shot in Japan, such as the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto.
    -Controversy also arose when the roles of geisha, Sayuri(Zhang Ziyi), Mameha(Michelle Yeoh) and Hatsumomo(Gong Li), did not go to Japanese actresses.

    -Opinion in the Asian commmunity was mixed. To some Chinese, the casting was offensive because it made the women look like prostitutes, and it revived memories of wartime Japan problems. A website ended up denouncing Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi as an "embarrassment to China"

    -Asians also took offence at the film's main Japanese actor, Ken Watanabe. He said that "talent is more important than nationality". I'm with him on this. It shouldn't matter about ethnicity. Hell, back in the 40s, when Charlie Chan was on, no one knew for years that he was actually a white British actor, either Sidney Toler, Roland Winter or Warner Oland. No one actually Asian ever played that character!

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