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Thread: Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)

  1. #1
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    Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)

    A Powerful, Compelling Suffered Love

    This sumptuous, gorgeous dramatic love story is one of the most potent ethnic love stories for Americans in many, many years. The entire movie is focused on forbidden love and the bearing the burden of such love in typical Japanese style. The performances are strong, the bitter emotional conflicts, the traditions, the elegance of the Geisha are well portrayed. In the best ethnic, soap operatic style of Japanese drama possible, this movie exposes the layers of stereotypical deprecation of a demanding and richly traditioned human art form - a girl as a living work of art and the suffering and sacrifice that attends to such a life. Unlike Dr. Zhivago, the epic Russian Revolutionary love story, Geisha spends all of its time on the people, and Suyuri in particular with the politics of men, of war only as historical canvas or backdrop. Instead the audience is witness to the intimate living experience and burden born by the mysterious Geisha and brings honor and human distinction to this noble but perhaps sexist and maybe dehumanizing traditional role in Japanese society. Easily among the top ten of my favorite movies of the year.

  2. #2
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    Couldn't disagree more. I voiced my displeasure in this film elsewhere on this site, but boring, safe, and typical Hollywood nonsense. The film tries to hard to convince us that it's a great work of art, that it never bothers to wonder if it actually is a good movie. Far too self conscious. The Chinese as Japanese actors got to be a problem as well, I mean couldn't one of the females have at least been the right nationality? Plus I just think Ken Watanabe is a little too old to pull this off. I mean not exactly the raging charisma machine that can sustain an obsessive love like that for so long, but well Hollywood has next to no Asian actors not named Jackie Chan, at least they got a Japanese man for that part.

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    Reverse Discrimination

    As a Japanese American, I find myself it a particularly unusual position regarding stereotypical racial expectations. As this world becomes more and more genetically mixed, our world becomes more global, such distinctions and nuances are something that we need to get behind us. I found the Chinese actresses did just fine in their roles. Knowing that more traditional emphasis of traditional Japanese male culture, I felt that Ken Watanabe was great in his role and that the age distinction was properly balanced and in fact needed to be considering Japan. What may be disconcerting and detracting to American viewers would be the apparent male envy of older men having an such attraction and accessibility to young females. Unfortunate or not, without judgment, that is the way is was and may still be.

    This movie uncovered the emotional underbelly in excellent photography, in Lost In Translation style brought to life. It accurately reflected the Japanese notion of tradition, suffering, guilt, love. When a movie can do this, particularly with Japanese as its setting, it's not hard to depict this movie as a good movie. Why does all good movies have to be controversially, socially morally uplifting dealing with:

    Munich political revenge and murder.
    Brokeback Mountain homosexuality
    Crash racial discrimination
    Syrianna oil profits, manipulation, corruption, and murder
    History of Violence crime and violence
    Jarhead war
    The Constant Gardner corporate greed and murder

    Perhaps, our society is so empty that it has to latch onto the newest moralistic fad or fashion to feel good about itself. I went to see this movie and now I'm cleansed. But when it comes to something even more universal such as the basic emotion of love and sacrifice we have to call it "safe and boring." When one talks about the refined tradition of what it means to be a Geisha and finds it safe and boring, one has not seen the fullness in the emptiness, one has missed the sound in the the silence, and is not alive but dead.

  4. #4
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    As a Japanese American, I find myself it a particularly unusual position regarding stereotypical racial expectations. As this world becomes more and more genetically mixed, our world becomes more global, such distinctions and nuances are something that we need to get behind us.

    As a Japanese American I'm more than a little surprised at your opinion. It might hold true if the film was set in current times but this is set during early to mid 20th Century.

    Although I have admiration for the actresses involved, I feel it is deeply insulting to the more than capable Japanese actresses who could have easily fitted the roles. The only reason these actresses were used was because they are slightly familiar to Western audiences whereas very few (if any) Japanese actresses are. Was there any reason why they couldn't use Japanese American actresses?

    Personally I've had more than enough of seeing fine actresses and actors playing nationalities that they obviously are not, this is one World and there's no reason these days why people of the right nationality cannot be used. If Hollywood had its way we would probably still have Indians, Mexicans, Japanese, Chinese etc played by white performers, just like the good ol' days.

    What may be disconcerting and detracting to American viewers would be the apparent male envy of older men having an such attraction and accessibility to young females. Unfortunate or not, without judgment, that is the way is was and may still be.

    Here you are literally kicking yourself in the teeth, above you talk about globalisation as a reason to dismiss the casting but then you discuss something that was and is a particularly Japanese nuance, you can't split hairs on this, pre-war Japan had very few foreigners and very little in the way mixed relationships, a full Japanese cast would have reflected this. So you have to decide what you want, something that feels and looks right or the complete "Hollywood" fantasy/phoney, as they say "You can't have your cake and eat it."

    Having read the book I have agree that Ken Watanabe is perfect for his role, I couldn't think of anyone more suitable, in fact I pictured him in the role whilst reading the book.

    Cheers Trev
    Last edited by trevor826; 01-11-2006 at 11:09 AM.
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Reverse Discrimination?

    trevor826 posted:

    As a Japanese American I'm more than a little surprised at your opinion. It might hold true if the film was set in current times but this is set during early to mid 20th Century.

    Although I have admiration for the actresses involved, I feel it is deeply insulting to the more than capable Japanese actresses who could have easily fitted the roles. The only reason these actresses were used was because they are slightly familiar to Western audiences whereas very few (if any) Japanese actresses are. Was there any reason why they couldn't use Japanese American actresses?

    Personally I've had more than enough of seeing fine actresses and actors playing nationalities that they obviously are not, this is one World and there's no reason these days why people of the right nationality cannot be used. If Hollywood had its way we would probably still have Indians, Mexicans, Japanese, Chinese etc played by white performers, just like the good ol' days.
    I guess I need to repeat myself. As this world becomes more and more genetically mixed, our world becomes more global, such distinctions and nuances are something that we need to get behind us.

    For some reason people need to insist on the dated belief that Japanese portray Japanese, Mexican portray Mexican as if our U.S. Supreme Court justices have to be African American as if that will help with representing African Americans and civil liberties and affirmative action. Unfortunately, the world isn't as simple as this anymore, it is global. A person, an actor is just that an actor regardless of race, creed, nationality, religion, sexual orientation. If we always insist of racial typecasting, racial purity than we as a minority are as guilty as white persons insisting on white persons regardless of skin color. Authenticity, perfect authenticity is for documentaries. For fictional drama representing and using dramatic license to capture and highlight certain eras and times, I am more interested in performance than having a DNA test on each actor, a birth certificate from grandparents to ensure authenticity of who is performing in a movie. We need to get beyond the insistance of Clarence Thomas' to represent African Americans as we need to get beyond the insistance of having Japanese representing Geishas. Perhaps we need to insist on Sumo wrestling must remain Japanese. Perhaps maybe we could cast Japanese Americans as Geishas of the early 20th Century or perhaps Issei, Nissei (second generation), Yonsei (third generation) or what about mixed blood, a Chinese-Japanese.

    Here you are literally kicking yourself in the teeth, above you talk about globalisation as a reason to dismiss the casting but then you discuss something that was and is a particularly Japanese nuance, you can't split hairs on this, pre-war Japan had very few foreigners and very little in the way mixed relationships, a full Japanese cast would have reflected this. So you have to decide what you want, something that feels and looks right or the complete "Hollywood" fantasy/phoney, as they say "You can't have your cake and eat it."
    This is confusing. Because you are referring to my comments refer to the earlier concern about Ken Watanabe being too old to pull of the movie that you now apparently support not oppose when the following statement after this quote is made Having read the book I have agree that Ken Watanabe is perfect for his role, I couldn't think of anyone more suitable, in fact I pictured him in the role whilst reading the book. As you say you can't have your cake and it too. You can't have it both ways.

  6. #6
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    I was referring to the fact that what you brought up as regards the storlyine:

    older men having an such attraction and accessibility to young females.

    Many would regard as a nuance of traditional Japan, you accept this indeed almost stress it as neccessary.

    Unfortunate or not, without judgment, that is the way is was and may still be.

    Yet while you want the story to be accurate in this representation you are more than happy to accept a false perception of Geishas themselves accepting non Japanese actresses (and let's be honest, they do not in any way look Japanese) which is phoney and representations of dancing etc which is pure Hollywood rather than any sort of accurate portrayal of the genuine arts (and yes, they are arts).

    As regards Ken Watanabe, I was in agreement with you as opposed to wpqx.

    My point is that Hollywood could easily have used any of the great many Japanese actresses for these roles but only used the names involved because they are known to Western audiences not because they are more able or better suited to the roles.

    Do you think that if a film was made of the life of Abraham Lincoln that Hollywood would use someone who was anything other than white American or do you think they might use a Russian or French actor or maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger could do it?

    Maybe you could have a film about the American War of Independence and fill the cast with Afro Americans, Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans!

    Neither of the above is ever going to happen, so why should Hollywood be so dismissive of other cultures?

    Or perhaps you'd be more than happy seeing the Japanese represented as in Breakfast at Tiffany's, Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi?

    I'd rather not.

    Cheers Trev.
    Last edited by trevor826; 01-12-2006 at 10:10 AM.
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  7. #7
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    A Gracious Reply

    A decent response from Trevor826. I must have a greater tolerance for ethnic discrepancy. As with any theatrical film that's not a documentary, the reflection of authenticity, the dramatic license is a blurry line for me. For me, Geisha met the enjoyment and immersion test for me and I was not put off by any nuanced Chinese genetic material that the actresses may have had. They covered such cultural discrepancies up sufficiently that I focused on the essence of the movie and the emotional drama that was highlighted by the performances and script. I don't think we can expect much greater movement towards ethnic purity in the film industry. It's difficult enough just to find and secure any Asian role for any Asian actor or actress. I'm just glad that this movie was made and how beautiful it looked and how it has educated to its limited extent having talked to a number of people who didn't even know what a Geisha was except a Japanese prostitute.

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