Memoirs of a Geisha (2005/ Period Drama/ Netflix)
Based on – Book by Arthur Golden
Adapted by -Robin Swicord
Director- Rob Marshall
Cast – Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh, Ken Watanabe, Suzuka Ohgo, Koji Yakusho,Youki Kudoh, Kaori Momoi
The film opens to an alluring, melancholic and deeply reflective voice of a woman who tells her life story, the story of a Geisha.
A Geisha, not a a prostitute but an artist trained in the arts of dance, music and conversations, etiquette and finesse.
“We sell our art ,not our bodies” little Chiyo is told.
And the little girl, through out her childhood full of stumbles and falls, aspires to be a Geisha, for a very cherished reason.
But these artists are not at liberty to choose their patrons or dream and most importantly love.
Right from the first frame, we are treated to stunning visuals and get transported back to early nineteenth century where a young 9 yr old , sold by her parents reeling under abject poverty and illness ,lands up in an Okiyo, a lodging house that houses a geisha and her destiny.
The film painstakingly creates that era and gives a peep into the Geisha culture and their world.
I do not know how authentic it was considering some of the reviews by the Japanese community, but I must say I found it mesmerising and quite similar to the Tawaif culture in India in ancient times. Many a times I found similarities with the classic gem ” Umrao Jaan” though I personally felt Umrao Jaan had a much higher searing intensity thanks to a mesmerising Rekha and superlative film making by Muzaffar Ali.
Chiyo’s story and how she deals with life, heartbreaks, rivalries, terrible lows and lofty highs, heart wrenching circumstances to bright turns of fate, hopeless ones to triumphant ones, is engrossing and captivating.
The mistigue of that culture and the charm of that era has been enhanced by the splendid cinematography, art direction and the costume details. The film deservedly won academy awards in all three departments.The music is beautiful, melodious and enraptures you in that world.
Suzuka as the young Chiyo pulls at your heart strings.
Zhang Ziyi’s enlivens the older Chiyo ,her beauty, innocence, earnestness, helplessness, longing and pain. Her performance makes a strong connect between you and her character.
And it wasn’t just the people around her who found those eyes ,like water, so special.
I found most of the actors in pivotal roles very good.
Her transformation and training, the twists and turns of her life are intriguing and keep you invested and engrossed. As you walk through her story, you feel emotionally connected.
It is captivating story of a woman who rose to become one of the most coveted Geishas of her times. It is not a real story but has inferences from the life of Mineko Iwasaki, Japan’s most famous Geisha.
This visually enchanting and beautifully regaled film is a must watch for those who love period dramas. Watch it for its story, music, visuals and performances.