Graceful geisha

  • 2006-02-22
  • By Naoko Anzai
I would like to comment on the movie critique on "Memoirs of a Geisha" that appeared in the Baltic Times Feb. 16 's 22. The original book by Arthur Golden is without doubt much more in depth and illuminating than the movie. But such is the fate of any movie created from a book. The story, based on a true account of the life of Sayuri, the heroine Geisha, describes how an abandoned, hopeless girl faced up the challenges of her only available fate, which was to become a Geisha 's otherwise to degenerate into a life of scavenging and begging, and upheld her internal dignity in spite of the dismal conditions constraining her life against the backdrop of social injustice prevailing in early 20th century Japan.

In my view, the movie has captured this essence of the story well. On the artistic manifestation of Geisha, which exists side by side with their lifelong misery, it is remarkably reproduced, though there are certainly elements of exaggeration, which, again, is inevitable in a movie. But the degree of what may be overstatement of the art together with the portrayal of the old town of Kyoto, its architecture and lifestyles is such that they arouse a sense of nostalgia in a person like me who was born in Japan in early 1960s (who, therefore, does not have direct knowledge of the days described in the movie but is old enough to have witnessed or heard some of their residual facets).

In sum, unlike what was said in the critique, I think the production team and the cast did a wonderful job in recreating the story in a visual image. Moreover, I am deeply moved by the fact such an all Asian cast movie on a particular aspect of Asia was produced in the U.S.A., which would not have been possible, say, 20 or even 10 years ago. It is an indication that American culture has matured to the extent that it can no longer undervalue Asian influence on it. The two main characters performed by Chinese actresses (rather than Japanese) simply reflect that they are more suited to the roles and, at the same time, an emerging realization that Asians are now more willing to join hands to celebrate cultural heritage of one another, despite continuing challenges in the political sphere.

Naoko Anzai



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