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January 2, 2006

-- Movie review --

A good Geisha that could be better

By Liane Harder  

As a rule, movies made from books are never as good as the books they are made from. Memoirs of a Geisha is no exception.

Watching it, I could understand how someone who hadn’t read the book would get confused.

But the film had its merits. For example, the movie brought Kyoto ’s Gion district to life in a way I could never have imagined.

The movie begins as Chiyo and her sister are taken from their small fishing village to Kyoto , where Chiyo is sold to the Nitta okiya, or geisha house.

Her strange blue eyes instantly mark her as a future star, and the geisha Hatsumomo decides to make Chiyo miserable.

Soon, Hatsumomo gets what she wants: Chiyo is forbidden to learn the art of geisha. She becomes a maid.

Well, I’d really rather not spoil the whole movie for you, so I’ll just say this: Chiyo eventually becomes a geisha and wins the love of a lifetime, the Chairman.

But the movie left some holes in the plot, and there were some things changed that messed with the story line.

One of those changes was Nobu, who wanted to become Chiyo’s patron, or danna. In the book, he was missing an arm and had facial scarring from a shell that exploded in wartime. He had tried to save his commanding officer, and lost his arm.

The movie only shows the scars on his face and explains that he had saved the Chairman from an explosion.

The biggest hole I noticed was that the movie never explained why Mameha (Chiyo’s older sister, or the geisha that shows her the ropes) decided to help Chiyo.

Before Mameha came along, Chiyo was still a maid in disgrace. But Mameha fought with the geisha house to get Chiyo.

The book explains quite well how the Chairman paid Mameha to find Chiyo and make her a geisha. He even paid for her training at the geisha school because he was in love with the blue-eyed maid.

Even with those few things that dragged the movie down, it was still very good.

The cinematography was excellent and I enjoyed how director Rob Marshall used the colors of the background and the clothing of the actors to portray the mood of the scenes and the time period of the movie.

I would recommend Memoirs of a Geisha to anyone interested in history, Japan , geishas, and romance stories and has read the book.


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