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Memoirs of a Geisha


Year: 2005 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Memoirs of a Geisha

Director: Rob Marshall

Starring: Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh, Gong Li Ken Watanabe

In the most lavish and sumptuous film of last year, Rob Marshall (with most of his team from Chicago) delivers a real feast for the eyes with knock-out cinematography and colourful costumes. The casting of Chinese actresses to play Japanese characters has drawn scorn, and the fact that the script differs rather significantly from the book has also divided audiences. That aside, it is still a film well worth seeing.

Zhang Ziyi, one of China’s most famous faces on the international scene, plays the girl Chiyo, sold at a young age to a geisha house, where she has to serve Hatsumomo (played by Gong Li, who looks very similar to Zhang), one of the most accomplished geisha at the time, who is unfortunately also an arrogant bitch and bullies Chiyo. Chiyo grows up and comes under to the attention of Mameha, another famous geisha, who sees talent in her and trains her to become a geisha, to the point where she can “stop a man with a single look”. Now, Chiyo becomes Sayuri - and her rise does not bode well with Hatsumomo.

The world of the geisha is an interesting one. They are not prostitutes in the conventional sense - they need to learn how to dance, to sing, to play instruments, to converse in politics and the arts. And, rivalries between the geisha can be vicious, as the film portrays. How accurately the film portrays that world, with such a Hollywood-style production, it is difficult to tell. Seen as a film telling a story, it is a touching tale about a girl whose life was like a billiard ball, and she does all she can to assert control on her life so that she can pursue what she desires - a struggle that many of us can relate to.

Sebastian Ng

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Screenings of this film:

2005/2006 Summer Term (35mm)