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A couple spies observe some sultry GEISHAs! And they liked 'em... a lot!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a pair of reviews on CHICAGO's Rob Marshall's next flick MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. We have a couple different reviews on the flick from a test screening last night. Keep in mind the flick might not be completely done. Here's the first review, a positive from someone familiar with the original book. Enjoy!

Greetings, AICN buds. It’s Enigma Boy, back after a three year hiatus. Where was I? Getting a career in the ‘biz. Why should you care? Honestly, you really shouldn’t. If you actually remember me as a writer on this site—author of roughly ten reviews since 2000—you have too much time on your hands.

Well, enough is enough. I’m here to tell you that the Hollywood bigwigs at Sony and Dreamworks gave to the greater Los Angeles area one of the first test screenings of Rob Marshall’s greatly anticipated follow-up to “Chicago,” the sprawling Oscar-baiting “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Based on the novel by Arthur Golden—a surprising bestseller considering it’s long, intelligent and subtle, something that mainstream America seems to steer clear of in literature—and adapted by Robin Swicord (the upcoming “The Mermaids Singing”) and Doug Wright (apparently NOT the same Doug Wright that adapted his own play “Quills” into film form), this one is just shooting for Academy Award glory. Fortunately, this one isn’t falsely uplifting and pointed at Middle America like “Seabiscuit” or “Cinderella Man,” but a far quieter, character-driven piece that would be home to a David Lean film if only it had some spectacular war sequences.

Its December 9 release almost ensures Oscar attention. In fact, about a month ago I read an article where oddsmakers placed this film along four others as the frontrunners for best picture, the others being George Clooney’s “Good Night, and Good Luck,” Stephen Gaghan’s “Syriana,” Mr. Marshall’s old theater partner Sam Mendes’ “Jarhead” and, of course, Spielberg’s “Munich.” In other words, this year seems to be entirely driven by politics in film, and “Geisha,” so far, remains seemingly the least hokey message-driven film of the bunch. (If Ron Howard gets his way, though, expect one of those films, probably “Good Night,” to be pushed aside by the hokey but well-made “Cinderella Man”).

Instead, “Geisha” shows that Marshall, in only two films, has brought something missing from most of the recent years of film—elegance. Only a few films can truly be called this in the last ten years, and even fewer have been nominated for Best Picture. Include “The Aviator” on that list, plus “Master & Commander,” “The Pianist,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Elizabeth” and “Fargo.” The film flows marvelously as long as it can, until it hits a few notable but difficult-to-avoid story adaptation mishaps. It is helped along by some of the best art direction money can buy and unbelievably nuanced performances.

I read the book back in 2001, and while going into the film I could not recall a good deal of the events—the many books one reads as an English major tends to turn one’s brain into a cloud of indistinguishable literature. Five minutes into the film, however, everything fell back into place—the film is that evocative. Dion Beebe’s cinematography is gorgeous without flaunting itself relentlessly and Colleen Atwood shows why she has a little gold man on her mantle among five nominations.

But enough about the hoopla. The plot and characters are where it’s at. After a very fast introduction to the world of pre-war Japan with a voiceover taken somewhat awkwardly from the book’s journalism-oriented framing—the narration is the film’s biggest flaw, not being placed in any time despite the obvious wheezing of an old woman—we meet young Chiyo, 9-years-old, whose recent loss of her mother forces her father to sell both her and her sister to geisha houses in the Gion district of Kyoto. Within minutes, the two are separated, prompting a lifelong sadness in Chiyo as she becomes owned by a major geisha house and is made to be a worker, especially to the spiteful and mean Hatsumomo (a strikingly cruel yet beautiful Li Gong). While Hatsumomo’s cruelty here pales in comparison to the hell she puts young Chiyo through in the book, she makes as the film’s formidable villain.

Chiyo will not let this world get her down, though, and soon she—helped by her glowing and alluringly rare blue eyes—is taken under the wing of famed geisha Mameha (Michelle Yeoh). She is now 15 and performed effortlessly by the acclaimed Ziyi Zhang. In a montage worthy of the best editors, she trains to become a geisha, renamed Sayuri, and is soon one of the most desirable in the country. But war is coming, and the culture is changing.

The journey is what works best about this film, so I won’t ruin too much of it. Instead, I will explain that this is a mature, greatly enjoyable film. The first half is impeccable in its ability to incite great emotions from an audience more and more weary of 2+ hour films, even though the romantic triangle between Sayuri, the scarred war hero Nobu (Koji Yakusho) and the attractive Chairman (Ken Watanabe) who raised Chiyo’s spirits when she was at her lowest point in her life. This was the focus of much of the book, but here seems to be lightened considerably to focus instead on Sayuri’s own journey.

With this truncation, the film loses some of the Dickension spirit that made the book such a delight—cruelty at a young age, past figures suddenly reappearing in ones life, the scarred bastard with a heart, etc. However, it is not a book that’s easy to adapt, and I have to commend Marshall and his team for creating something so beaming with life and spirit. Without knowledge of the book, most audiences will eat up this movie. It’s part chick flick, part sprawling historical epic, part subtle character drama for those lit-lovers. I think it’ll attract more women than men—especially considering that Ziyi close-up that is the poster. While the story may droop a bit in the middle as the war comes and goes, it picks up as it slowly focuses more on the love triangle. (An appearance by Shang Tsung from “Mortal Kombat” as the lecherous baron doesn’t hurt, either.)

Ziyi Zhang is a wonder here. Left to her own devices without the spectacle of martial arts (“Crouching Tiger,” “Hero,” “Flying Daggers”), she can elicit something very deep within us, as evidenced by her underplayed dramatic roles. From a physical perspective, she is the most perfect subject a choreographer like Rob Marshall can have. Her movements are something to behold, and her accent—a source of some controversy, as she is obviously not Japanese—is sweet yet unobtrusive.

I wish I could do more than spew what seems to be a review of clichés, but this is really quite an exquisite film. It’s not perfect, but I have a feeling that its otherworldly, exotic settings, a surprisingly restrained John Williams/Yo-Yo Ma score, and its embrace of a time when films had elegance will hold the attention of many an audience member and many an Oscar voter. Look for nominations for picture, director, lead actress, supporting actress (Li Gong is more notable than Michelle Yeoh), cinematography, art direction, costumes, music (maybe) and makeup. No, this is not a plea to the Academy, just a very good guess.

While it doesn’t come out for another two months, the film seems very much finished. The score was intact and no obvious coloration problems. The only problem is the pace—slow in the middle, rushed at the end—but I chalk this up more to the adaptation than Marshall’s direction. He has proved with two films and his Broadway credits that he is something old, something new, and something worthwhile. This one’s ready.

And it’s much, much better than that trailer, which captures the sweep and color but not the subtle shadings of the poetry that is the film.

Till another time,

Enigma Boy
(Call me a plant again and I’ll bring up “Serenity,” thus ensuring another web battle)

P.S. Marshall is a surprisingly humble and kind man, who after the screening indulged me in my commendation of the version of “Cabaret” he and Mendes brought to Broadway in the late ‘90s and geeked out with me over his former screenwriter Bill Condon’s upcoming “Dreamgirls” (we share an obvious musical fetish).

This one's more smart-ass, but it's certainly a fun read. It's also a positive and echoes that there may be a little flab on the 2 1/2 hour long movie. Enjoy!

Last night I went to the Sherman Oaks Galleria to see a screening of the feel-good whore movie of the Christmas Season, Memoirs of a Geisha (translated from the Japanese: "A Film About Water").

The film had a huge audience last night, and I know there was plenty of crew seeing this for what seemed to be the first time. After the screening I passed several conversations along the lines of "that looked a lot better than when we shot it" and "I was surprised they fixed all those sound problems so quickly".

Regardless, I had wanted to see this film back in 1895 when Spielberg was attached to direct. If it wasn't 1895, it was a long time ago. I had never read the book, but I was always amused by the fact that some dude with an American-sounding name had written this runaway bestseller about Japanese culture, and specifically females in that culture. As a writer, I always find it refreshing to see a dude writing a book about women and it being a hit.

Rob Marshall, award winning director of such hits as "Chicago" and… well… this, probably, did a beautiful job with the film. The cinematography is beautiful, but it also doesn't hurt that Dion Beebe had beautiful things to take pictures of.

The acting was great, as long as you go with the idea that all of these people are Japanese and rarely do they ever speak that language. I always find it odd that we're afraid to make our own subtitled movies. It's ok if "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" comes to the States and people have to read it, but we don't want to make our own "foreign film" and listen to those crazy folks speak their own language. Americanize a story completely about the Japanese? Hmph.

And this IS a foreign film. It's beautiful, romantic, full of drama and quality acting. If it was in Japanese and subtitled, it could win the little bald golden guy for "Best Foreign Film Made Right Here At Home". It really is quite good.

As a plot round-up, Memoirs of a Geisha tells the story of a young girl and her sister sold by her father into slavery. The sisters are separated, and sent to different boarding houses where most of the women grow up to be Geisha. Now don't automatically jump to the obvious conclusion that this will spin off a reality show. "Growing Up Geisha" wouldn't fly here because we don't like people that paint themselves white. Ask a clown.

So our main character, Sayuri (that's what we'll call her, since her name changes three times in the film, we'll stick with the most prominent one), is whipped and beaten and begins taking Geisha classes, but still wants to find her sister. The main, money-making Geisha at her house doesn't like her because she has watery eyes, or, as normal people like to say, she's beautiful.

The main, money-making Geisha, Hatsumomo, played with increasing gusto by Li Gong, sees Sayuri as a threat, but she is also in love with a man, and that ain't what the Geisha are about, my friend. This does allow Sayuri to begin to understand the life of the Geisha, but something deep down tells her that she must find her sister. So, even after severe beatings and the house gets locked down, she decides to meet her sister to escape. She fails. She gets patched up and taken out of Geisha School as punishment. She's sad. But the next day, she meets The Chairman, played like an Asian Victor Garber by Ken Watanabe. He sees the little girl, buys her a Fla-Vor-Ice and the little girl falls in love with him because he was kind.

At this point, she decides to grow up to be the best Geisha she can be, so that she can eventually wind up with The Chairman. It's not realistic on her part, due to the fact that, as a Geisha, she has to sell her virginity to the highest bidder, and, as an act of defiance, wins the favor of a scar-faced businessman, but, hey, you can't have everything.

That's pretty much the story. Michelle Yoeh takes Sayuri under her wing, as she is the main rival of Hatsumomo, and turns her into a Geisha. From there, we have the trials and tribulations of being a Geisha and from time to time we have Geisha vs. Geisha action, not to mention the war and how hard it is to start again after devastation like that.

The film is long. It ran about 2:30 give or take, and there was easily 30 minutes of stuff that could be tossed and no one would be the wiser. They spend a terribly long time with Sayuri as a kid, much longer than they needed to, searching for her sister, etc., for no real payoff.

I mentioned very early on that this was a film about water. They always say her eyes are filled with water. They say that water is powerful. Every other fade is into water of some sort. If you are afraid of water, don't see this film. It's everywhere. If you aren't seeing it, you're hearing about it. Keep that in mind. This film is not for the aquaphobic.

The film really does tell a good story, and it is visually stunning. The characters are well played and crafted, and the music by that little know indie artist John Williams, with a little bit of Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Pearlman for good measure, is pretty F'n fantastic.

So I keep saying that the film is good and that it will probably win some stuff, hopefully at least Production Design or Cinematography, etc., but why does it feel like I'm holding back?

Frankly, other than all the English speaking, the idea behind this is what throws me. It's essentially a film about being a whore (sorry, "companion", for all you "Browncoats" out there), and how women not only liked doing it, but WANTED to do it, and they felt that this was the only way to survive.

Sure, cultures change and the past is the past, etc., but what gets me is there is no sincere feeling of, well, anything in the movie. Being a Geisha isn't really a problem, and it isn't really a great thing, either. It's a means to an end, just like anything else, but Rob Marshall goes out of his way not to make a statement about whether being a Geisha is good or bad. He stays indifferent, and that's what holds me back from loving this film. Even though all of these bad things happen to Sayuri, I never really felt bad for her. She chose to keep doing it. Was it her only choice? Was it what she wanted? Either way, I follow the love story instead of the "whole story", if that makes any sense. Nevermind that she's in love with Ken Watanabe, who was middle-aged when he met her as a girl, and when she grows up she still wants him. She must've seen "The Last Samuri".

So yeah, I think this is a good film. I'd give it 8 out of 10 on a scale of something or other. I think it has a shot or two at Oscar nods. I even recommend seeing it, especially on a big screen if you can, because the visuals demand it. I just think that if you make a film that long, you should give me more of a reason to want the characters to get what they have always wanted.

And what? No Lucy Liu? Was she too busy? C'mon.

If you use this, call me Constable Kreegal, and I wouldn't mind a shout out to my entertainment blog, but ya don't gotta.

Thanks,

Constable Kreegal



Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 13, 2005, 12:36 a.m. CST

    Will be checking this out

    by Terry_1978

    Only to see how accurate it is to the book, if at all. I don't doubt the movie won't be pretty to look at though.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 12:38 a.m. CST

    Hmmmm

    by Gheorghe Zamfir

    I wonder about a point in that second review, cause in the book being a Geisha wasn't really a choice, it wasn't something they had to do to pay off the debt they incurred by doing the schooling as children - "schools" they're families sold them too, so they were basically kidnapped, educated by the "kidnappers" to be Geishas, and then told they had to use that education and be a Geisha in order to work off the debt they racked up getting educated.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 12:38 a.m. CST

    I'll SECOND!!!! That.

    by Shermdawg

    Ziyi Zhang rules.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 12:45 a.m. CST

    this is exploitative cinema at its worst...

    by mocky_puppet

    ...and insulting. women are not objects! it is time hollywood wise up!

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 12:52 a.m. CST

    Has Anyone Else Noticed...

    by Capt. Spaulding

    That Zhang Ziyi is not Japanese?

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 12:57 a.m. CST

    Yes, Spaulding. And neither is Yeoh. Marshall apparently had to

    by Lenny Nero

    I mean, they're good actors that Americans actually somewhat know.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 1:20 a.m. CST

    "essentially a film about being a whore"

    by jrbarker

    That reviewer obviously knows nothing about Geisha, even though he saw the film. Geisha were not whores. What an ignorant statement.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 1:42 a.m. CST

    This movie is such an embarrassment

    by Scopa

    "We need Asian women! How about that Asian girl from that Asian movie? What? Not Japanese? Who cares!? They all look the same anyway! Besides, this is a movie about whores, people will just be looking at the sexy bodies. What? Geishas weren't whores? Bah, who cares? No one will no the difference! Silly Asians and their 'culture'!"

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 1:58 a.m. CST

    Really looking forward to this.

    by Proman1984

    This film looks amazing.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 4:32 a.m. CST

    kinda agree with Scopa

    by Duncan_Idaho72

    For a movie about Japanese culture you think they couldve bothered looking for a Japanese to play the title role. It wouldnt have mattered if they spoke their native language anyways because it all wouldve been mandarin chinese, save Ken Watanabe. I suppose we should be grateful this movie isnt being made in the 1950s, otherwise wed have white actresses with 'asian' makeup pretending to be asian. I do love the asian actresses in this movie, but I wish they couldve shown some sort of effort in making more of the female cast actually be Japanese.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 6:54 a.m. CST

    "not Japanese"

    by simonsays

    So fucking what if they're not Japanese? Did it bother you that Tim Roth is an Englishman playing an American in Reservoir Dogs? Or that Alan Rickman is an Englishman playing a German in Die Hard? No, but you suddenly come over all culturally sensitive when it comes to the Japanese and Chinese? And, for the last time, Geisha are nor whores.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 7:04 a.m. CST

    did anyone else notice...

    by human2

    that GONG LI AND YEOH AND YO-YO MA aren't Japanese either?

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 8:25 a.m. CST

    "Elegant"

    by Wee Willie

    Aside from Fargo, all the movies that were listed as 'elegant" also have something else in common. They're boring. (Okay, Elizabeth wasn't boring, but it wasn't really elegant either.) "Elegant" is the death of cinema. Elegant is that 'tradition of quality' the French New wave were rebelling against. There's nothing deader than a 'fine' literary adaptation. (Although I'm kind of contradicting my own beliefs here because I think Kubrick is the greatest filmmaker of all time and he did nothing but literary adaptations. But then again, his films were far from 'elegant'. Controlled, maybe, but not elegant.) Anyhow, I hate elegant. Give me sweat, blood, piss, and cum.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 8:40 a.m. CST

    Sense of Humour in TB?

    by DannyOcean01

    It would be nice if one existed. Jesus, you read a wise ass review like the second one and people are screaming ignorance and all that shit. It's a joke review, calm down for christs sake. Oh and your momma is a hooker, no matter how many times she comes home bleeding from the crack and informing you, 'Yes honey, a geisha's got to do what a geisha's go to do'.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 8:55 a.m. CST

    So fucking what if they're not Japanese?

    by BranMakMorn

    Tim Roth and Rickman were playing CRIMINALS & Terrorist respectively. Criminal / terrorists are not based on a specific CULTURAL ICONs like a Japanese Geisha. It isn't even about race versus race but about lazy casting choices. In fact, why not just cast Japanese American actors? What if a film based on the Ruth era Yankees (there's probably better American Icons... but it's early) casted well known French actors in the major roles? How many Americans would point out that Gerald Depardieu and Alain Delon are not the perfect choices for Ruth and Gehrig? It's obvious there's many American actors who could play those roles.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 10:40 a.m. CST

    So Why Are They All Chinese Again?

    by ZombieSolutions

    most americans can't tell the difference between asian cultures, that's why. living in a zone of extreme cultural ignorance as most americans do, all asians seem to look and speak the same. it's all apart of living in the hermetically sealed bubble world of american cultural ignorance. i actaully had a conversation with a woman the other day about my time in Japan. she kept asking me about China. i kept telling her I wasn't in China, i was in Japan. she looked at me as if i were insane. she literally had no conception that there were more than one asian country and culture. it went completely over her head. it was both totally hilarious and deeply disturbing.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 11:05 a.m. CST

    Zombie Solutions

    by Zoviet Squid

    Haha--I've had similar experiences. I love how most people I meet simply refer to all asian people as 'Chinese.' *facedesk*

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 12:01 p.m. CST

    There you got talking about "China" and "Japan"

    by seppukudkurosawa

    Right...as if these "countries" even exist. We all know that every Asian is a monk who lives at the top of a Tibetan mountain. Damn, the ignorance of some people actually being suckered into thinking those other countries even exist. By the way, I'm not sure about this, but I'm starting to think Ziyi Zhang (otherwise known as Zhang Ziyi) is the finest female out there in moviemaking today. Which is why I'll be checking this one where she plays an erm life-long escort/slave-woman/filthy harlot.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 12:02 p.m. CST

    got=go

    by seppukudkurosawa

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 12:11 p.m. CST

    If you're going to complain about all of the stars being Chi

    by MechaTruffautMk2

    ...then what you REALLY have to bitch about is that the film is an American production, with an American director, and in English. That's the real problem here...the casting is something secondary, and even then it's not too bad since, let's face it, these are the three of the best actresses working in Asia (too bad Brigitte Lin has retired). Well, I'd take Maggie Cheung over Zhang Ziyi, but her youth seals her taking the role. The cast is the last thing to get uppitty about, lots of Japanese movies use mainland/HK actors, and vice versa. I guess this thing is kind of like Marriage of Figaro...composed by an Austrian, written by a Frenchman, set in Spain, sung in Italian. What really should have happened is that this property should have been put in the hands of a great Japanese director like Immamura or Kinoshita who has just the right mix of anarchy and classicism. Then certainly no one would complain about Gong Li, Zhang or Yeoh (she's come a long way since Yes, Madam! and Royal Warriors, though you've got to dig that mid 80s semi-mullet). And what, exactly, is wrong with elegance in the cinema? It's one of the cornerstones of film. Yeah, the French New Wave tried to rebel against it, but what happened? Godard went from the highs of Breathless and Band of Outsiders to the senseless Marxist bullshit of Week-end and Pierrot le fou, which may not be elegant, but certainly weren't good; Truffaut (God bless his smutty soul) started out as a cinematic iconoclast with Shoot the Piano Player/Jules and Jim and eventually became sappy with Day for Night/Last Metro, which I also love, but they're about as elegant as you get; Chabrol did nuHitchcocks were are, yes, elegant; and Rohmer, my God, I don't think I've seen anything more simplistically elegant than his work. How could you not love the superbly elegant films of Renoir, Ozu, Carne, Malle, Powell and Pressburger, Yimou, Lubitsch, Lean and so many others? Give me "elegance" any day over the "sweat, blood, piss, and cum" of misogynist, boring banalities churned out by Tarantino or Miike.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 12:28 p.m. CST

    I want to make love to Ziyi Zhang.

    by Osmosis Jones

    That is all.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 12:31 p.m. CST

    Always loved the book

    by moviemaniac-7

    Although it seemed a bit rushed at the end, but lots of books have that (same with the upcoming Nolan movie The Prestige). I always wondered what Spielberg would have done with this, or Jonze. Too bad we won't find out. Spielberg didn't make it because he had made it

  • ...Let alone win one. Hollywood actors are elitists. Just like you see actors hate reality TV shows because "it takes away jobs from working actors," The same logic can be applied here. Non-WASP actors winning only means they get offered roles more than others, meaning Hollywood actors. That's why you don't see animation features win "Best Picture" because they don't really employ actors except voices. Also, since nominees become voters, the Academy doesn't want the pool of voters diluted with people who might vote foreign more than American.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 2:03 p.m. CST

    Zhang Ziyi / Ziyi Zhang Really Is The Perfect Woman

    by ZombieSolutions

    not only is she effing BEAUTIFUL, shes tiny AND can literally KICK YOUR ASS! she knows kung fu! for real! i love her.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 3:31 p.m. CST

    So what you're saying is that any American movie about a dif

    by Lenny Nero

    Wow. Ain't that a little short-sighted.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 3:50 p.m. CST

    It's called "acting."

    by oisin5199

    All this complaining is so much politically correct bullshit. Maybe the people playing the roles were the best actors for the parts? Who knows what went into the casting? To me, the notion that only people from a certain culture can play characters from that culture is more racist than the other. Saying only Brits can play Brits or Americans play Americans is equally chauvinistic and smacks of "ethnic purity." Now if they do it badly, that's another issue entirely.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 4:20 p.m. CST

    If Omar fucking Shariff could play a Russian

    by seppukudkurosawa

    then Ziyi Zhang could take on a Japanese role no problem. (And I don't say this in the way that all Japanese people look like Chinese, but if you trace the routes of their culture ((the I-Ching being one important aspect)) they all date back to China anyway. Meaning...all Japanese people ARE Chinese people). Though, that being said, I find it quite idiotic not being able to tell the difference between the two, well ignorant at least. Listen to the voices. Maybe you'll even learn how to tell the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin too while you're at it. Fuck this, "Why oh Why do I have to Try?!" attitude, stretch that ol' brain-muscle of yours.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 4:44 p.m. CST

    by nairbnyllednavkr

    Read the book a few months ago and was entranced. I'm starved for an elegant movie and I'm looking forward to this one. As for foreigners playing foreigners, the king of the pile was an Australian playing a Scotsman. Mel Gibson as William Wallace. As a Scotsman living in Austin, this was horrendous to see. Just shyte.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 4:49 p.m. CST

    "It wouldnt have mattered if they spoke their native language an

    by eraser_x

    Well, Michelle Yeoh's native language certainly isn't Mandarin Chinese! I'm no expert, but even I could tell, after listening to her warble through Crouching Tiger. Her accent is terrible, when speaking Mandarin Chinese!

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 6:49 p.m. CST

    seppukudkurosawa

    by Scopa

    Well, most anthropologists would say that the Modern Japanese came from Korea, not China. The writing and much of the culture was adopted from China, however Japan has also adopted much of its culture from Polynesia as well. (The architecture of Japanese buildings is heavily influenced by Polynesia)

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 6:54 p.m. CST

    by Scopa

    Not that Japanese decent is really important. The key thing I

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 8:03 p.m. CST

    Ahh, but Scopa, your argument is based on speculation.

    by Lenny Nero

    And therefore cannot hold up in a court of law! Yes, I'm a jackass. I'll be quiet now.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 9:23 p.m. CST

    Spare a dime for a cup o' joe?

    by monorail77

    While I was reading that first review, I could just picture myself at the Alan Smithee's counter in the theatre lobby before the show: "Extra large coffee please, dark roast, and put an extra shot of espresso in it too please. I'm gonna need it, I'm about to see that Geisha movie and I just know I'll be asleep within the first twenty minutes."

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 9:37 p.m. CST

    Monorail, was it my review that did it, or the subject matter?

    by Enigma Boy

    Just out of curiosity.

  • Oct. 13, 2005, 10:42 p.m. CST

    Sorry Enigma Boy

    by monorail77

    I wasn't slamming your review at all. I really liked it and it has convinced me to go see the film. I just know that its gonna be a long one and my wife ("she who must be obeyed") only let's me go to late movies, after I put the kids to bed, so I just know I'm gonna need a big cup o' joe to get through. Here are some quotes from your review that tipped me off to the movie's long-ness: "it

  • Oct. 14, 2005, 12:10 a.m. CST

    No problemo. I think it ran just under 2.5 hours.

    by Enigma Boy

    Could have been a helluva lot longer.

  • Oct. 14, 2005, 1:18 a.m. CST

    by HungWeiLo

    1.) It's Zhang Ziyi, not Ziyi Zhang. Last name first, first name last in East Asia. It sounds horrendously jackass otherwise. 2.) Michelle Yeoh's native language is Malay, being that she was born and raised in Malaysia. She learned Cantonese later on and Mandarin phonetically (meaning she spoke out the sounds of the script in Crouching Tiger)

  • Oct. 14, 2005, 7:03 a.m. CST

    I'm sorry HungWeiLo, but it's Ziyi Zhang these days, not

    by Windowlicker74

    Ziyi reversed her name officially not so long ago to boost her career internationally. I'm not joking. Having said that, I liked Zhang Ziyi better..

  • Oct. 14, 2005, 10:05 a.m. CST

    Wo ai Zhang Ziyi.

    by Shigeru

    Zhang Ziyi shi hen mei. Thus ends your typed Mandarin lesson.

  • Oct. 14, 2005, 4:33 p.m. CST

    Tough question

    by hank quinlan

    I am glad other people brought up the casting of chinese actresses in roles that are written for a japanese actress in the novel. I am big fans of all the actresses cast and they are all gorgeous. But it did make me cringe a little. I think the arguments about Tim Roth or whatever aren't really the same thing. Affecting an accent is one thing. Hence Zellwegger as Bridget Jones or Paltrow in like every movie she made in the mid to late 90's. And casting color blind is fine as well. For example putting Micheal Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin was NOT what wrecked Daredevil. But my asian friends have gone out of their way to point out that Koreans, japanese, chinese etc. ARE different and do have different physical charecteristics subtle as they may be. As a white guy, it always feels like that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine thinks she has the black boyfriend and everytime the group discusses him they say: "I don't think we're supposed to be talking about this". In the end, it is a movie and if those actors and the filmmakers felt that was the best way to tell the story then I guess it's okay. Maybe I don't have any place making a big deal over it. I am no fan of political correctness but it did sort of call attention to itself. I actually agree with the poster who called for the death of "elegance". Well made, staid literary adaptations with sumptuous production design are really obnoxious. Oh god, like that new movie by the guy who wrote gosford park...who gives a fuck? I love all kinds of movies...but Merchant Ivory junk...it feels as formula as any big blockbuster. This looks like another version of the same thing. Much more excited for the other films listed by the reviewer as top contenders. Guess I ain't the target audience. By the way for great asian cinema 2046 was fantastic. Try to catch it.

  • Oct. 15, 2005, 1:06 a.m. CST

    so they're not Japanese - GET OVER IT

    by Maniaq

    I mean really... You don't have to look back very far to a time when ALL roles were played by white men - in blackface if necessary, or even in drag for that matter... Believe it or not, non-asians can tell Chinese from Japanese from Korean from Malaysian from Thai from Philipino from Vietnamese etc etc et-bloody-cetera! BTW - Mel Gibson was never Australian - he just picked up the accent after a while...

  • Nov. 3, 2005, 5:26 a.m. CST

    geisha

    by danbloom

    it is not the faces, it is the Chinese-English accents that make this film a dud. it falls on its face right then and there. faces do not matter, all Asian look alike, right, haha, not, but that is not the problem here. the problem is the accents. totally ruin the movie. Marshall screwed up very very badly here. http://japundit.com See archives/2005/08/31/1113/