Memoirs of a Geisha is a 2005 American epic drama film adaptation of the novel of the same name, produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment and Spyglass Entertainment and by Douglas Wick’s Red Wagon Productions. The picture was directed by Rob Marshall and was released in the United States on December 9, 2005 by Columbia Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures. DreamWorks was given studio credit only. It stars Zhang Ziyi, Ken Watanabe, Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh, Youki Kudoh, Suzuka Ohgo, and Samantha Futerman. Production took place in southern and northern California and in several locations in Kyoto, including the Kiyomizu temple and the Fushimi Inari shrine.
Memoirs of a Geisha tells the story of a young Japanese girl, Chiyo Sakamoto, who is sold by her impoverished family to a geisha house called an okiya. Chiyo is eventually transformed into a geisha and renamed “Sayuri”, and becomes one of the most celebrated geisha of her time. But with this success, Sayuri also learns the secrets and sacrifices of the geisha lifestyle. The film was nominated for and won numerous awards, including nominations for six Academy Awards, and eventually won three: Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.
The Japanese release of the film was titled Sayuri, the titular character’s geisha name.
This is a movie that I should like, it features a really great cast led by Zhang Ziyi of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon fame, it’s got a great director in Rob Marshall, it’s got an incredible visual look to it, how can you possibly go wrong?
Well, unfortunately, the rest of the film is not very good and it’s a shame because there’s so much about this film to admire.
The cast themselves is really good and they do a good job despite the material given to them. The direction is nice, the music by John Williams is very good, and again, the visual look of the film is gorgeous.
The biggest problem with the film is that the story plays out like a melodramatic soap opera, the main story has nothing interesting or exciting to offer to make it stand out on its’ own. This is a film that is the perfect example of a style over substance film where the visuals stand out more than the actual story.
There was definitely a lot of ways Memoirs Of A Geisha could’ve worked, you had a great cast, you had a great director, and you have a great visual flair but the film didn’t have a good story to work with and that hurts the film. You can’t rely simply on visuals and just make us forget the lack of a good story and expect us to go along for the ride, you need to give us a good story to work with, but here, we don’t get it and what we do get is a nice looking well acted well directed misfire.