Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)

If you had asked me to judge this movie by the poster, I would have said this wouldn’t be my kind of movie. My wife convinced me that I would like this movie since it is one of her favourites. I was initially intimidated by the run time (2:25) and the subject material, but I was completely wrong about my judgements.

Memoirs of a Geisha is set in Japan before World War II, in a time when men still courted women, and love wasn’t found online with a swipe to the left. Geishas have a unique place in human history and Japanese culture. The more appealing they are, the higher price someone will pay to be a part of their life. The powerful men of the day would pay a lofty sum of money to spend a night with a Geisha. The worse part for these girls who have trained the majority of their youth is there are no feelings involved.

What makes Memoirs different than other stories about Geishas is our leading lady, Chiyo/Sayuri (Zhang Ziyi), falls in love with The Chairman (Ken Watanabe). Despite being just a kid, it is love at first sight. The two star-crossed lovers will spend the entire movie avoiding the subject, yet will watch the other with agonizing pain. You want to see them together, but life has other plans. 

At first, I didn’t care for the story and the characters, who mistreat Chiyo. Things get really interesting when she’s matured, and the bidding for her begins. That’s when love and requirements clash. To pay all her debts, she has to give up on the idea of love and the man of her dreams, which is pretty crushing if you ask me. 

The subject material this story is based on won’t be for everyone. One of the best aspects of the whole thing is the period it is set in. Pre-war dramas are usually compelling affairs if given the proper material to work with. I was initially quick to judge the movie and think it would be a waste of my time. I was utterly wrong with that opinion and came to appreciate this film and the performances of everyone involved. 7/10


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