Saturday, June 28, 2014

Memoirs of a Geisha ★★★1/2

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    The life of a geisha is one filled with honor, discipline and isolation. These women partake in rigorous training, at a very young age, to become a living and breathing work of art. Their lives serve as a reminder of Japan's prestigious heritage, and they are nothing short of captivating.

    "Memoirs of a Geisha" is a 2005 drama that follows the story of a young girl, Chiyo, and her journey of becoming one of Japan's most renown geisha. This is an inspiring film that showcases the perseverance of human nature and the reluctance to forget true love. With a terrific cast and a spectacular display of cinematography, this film will delight and charm for years to come.

    Chiyo, an innocent young Japanese girl, is given up by her parents and sold into a life not of her choosing--the life of a geisha. Although it may seem like the beginning of an enchanting lifestyle, Chiyo ultimately becomes the lowly servant to Mother, the proprietress of this particular geisha house, and a target to Hatsumomo, the most beautiful geisha in the district.

    She spends the majority of her days completing chores, serving punishment and dreaming of reuniting with her sister, who was sold into a life of prostitution. After finding the whereabouts of her sister and executing a plan to escape, Chiyo falls off a roof and injures herself, thus diminishing her chances of becoming a geisha. She will spend the remainder of her adolescence as a servant to Mother in the hopes that she can repay the debt she has incurred.

    The tone of Chiyo's early life is set on that fateful and dreary night when she is sold into this rather mysterious existence. It continues on the streets of Japan, as this film provides a dark and despondent depiction of this humbling experience. I wondered why I was so effortlessly captivated by this remarkable tale, and only one answer came to mind: It was the professionalism of Suzuka Ohgo, the young actress who plays Chiyo. Her innocence prevails in a role that intends to defeat the purely guided soul.

    To accompany the aesthetically pleasing portions of this film are the scores written by John Williams. Williams is undoubtedly the most successful composer in cinema history, and his beautifully performed renditions only add to the allure of this film. Considering this is the only picture in which Williams wasn't hired simply for his skill but for his desire to compose, it only alludes to the passion that was invested into the spirit of this fictional tale.

    Meanwhile, Chiyo subsequently slips into a state of depression after her failed attempt to leave this forced and restrained way of life. She is found by an enigmatic Chairman weeping on the rails of a bridge; consequently, allowing this man to bestow an act of kindness on a sorrowful young girl. He buys her a treat of shaved ice and gives her a handkerchief filled with coins. This solitary act of affection will provide the foundation for Chiyo's renewed inspiration to become a geisha and win the heart of this man.

    The second half of this film delves into the adult life of Chiyo, who takes the name of Sayuri, and her struggle to overcome insurmountable odds to gain the lost tenderness of the Chairman. Ziyi Zhang steps into the role of Sayuri and provides a subtle depiction of this young woman who must hide her love in order to fulfill the path that fate has laid down for her.

    Although truly noteworthy, Zhang's performance lacks the continuity set forth by the atmosphere of the beginning of the film, and her dialogue does seem forced at times, especially during a scene in which Sayuri pleads that her innocence has not been compromised. Zhang's beauty conceals the inconsistencies in her exercising of dialogue, and she doesn't quite exude the tangible qualities of her character.

    "Memoirs of a Geisha" is a remarkable piece, and it highlights the talents of several relatively unknown actors and actresses who aid in providing an enchanting story of lost love and redemption. This picture is not suited to provide an in-depth study into the lifestyle of geishas. It is solely a fictional tale of a young woman and her journey through adolescence and despair.

     If there was one aspect of this film that could be emphasized more, it would be the loss of innocence of young Chiyo. This would lend the opportunity for a more emotionally charged film, which would ease the transition between her phases of life; in the second act, Sayuri essentially becomes a character of unfamiliarity.

    This film has been widely criticized for the casting of Chinese actors and actresses to portray Japanese characters. Although I am not as highly critical of this decision as most individuals, there is a slight feeling of a loss of authenticity. Nevertheless, the origins and nationalities of the actors do not compromise the integrity of the film, and it would be thoughtless to revoke the merit of this picture on that sole notion.

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