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Memoirs of a Geisha


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Memoirs of a Geisha presents us with a very pretty version of what some old white guy in Hollywood thought Japan looked like 70 years ago. All the asians speak in metaphors concerning the elements, "I am water, I am soft but forceful, you are fire, etc etc" The streets are as clean as can be, there are a hundred paper lanterns on every corner, and everyone is gorgeous. If you look hard enough, you can probably see teh giftshops selling kodak disposible cameras and plush Ninja dolls.

 

Some of my favorite Chinese actresses are in this film, Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh, and Gong Li. Sure, they're playing Japanese characters, but so what? Brits play americans all the time. Well the problem is that they're playing Japanese characters in English. Granted, Deniro would do worse if he had to speak Chinese in a French accent, but that's why noone makes Deniro do that. Ziyi sounds like she learned English a month before filming (and probably did.) After a couple of hours the main conflict of the film wasn't World War 2, or Ziyi's love life, it was the actresses vs. the language barrier.

 

Of course, I'd be able to ignore the glaring inauthenticity if this was a good film, but it's not. It moves at an okay pace untill the last third, which is so spectacularly boring they could have just superimposed the credits over the last 30 minutes of the movie and noone would have batted an eye. The whole thing is shot in "look at the money we spent!" wideshots and overly melodramatic closeups. The film is kind of nice looking for the most part because of the aforementioned production value, and if you played it at a dinner party on mute, people might even enjoy it, but that's about as far as I would take it. I loved Chicago (which is by the same director, Rob Marshall) and I was extremely dissapointed with this, and I saw it with some people who had liked the book, and they were downright angry.

 

Stay away from this pretty, empty, bore of a film.

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Yeah, I saw it and had mixed feelings. Zhang Ziyi is brilliant of course, but I fucking wish they had used subtitles instead of that mangled engrish. Seriously, I had a lot of difficulty understanding much of what they were saying. I wanted so badly to like it, but you're right, it really is boring except for a few good scenes.

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About subtitles, I understand that when i watch a movie about another country made in America they're going to be speaking English, but it's a whole different story when the Americans come at the end and the Geishas speak English to them with no problems... In this film the world just universally speaks English.

 

And I'd still like to read the book, everyone I saw it with had read the book and loved it and they shared my opinions, so I'm interested in seeing how much they butchered the thing.

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