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Customer Review

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blues for Sayuri, 13 July 2006
This review is from: Memoirs of a Geisha [DVD] (DVD)
All the Japanoiserie aside, the basic story of "Memoirs of a Geisha" is as old as time: girl from the country makes good in the big city, loses it all then regains it by way of her talent, her wit and street smarts.

The story of Chiyo/Sayuri (the amazing Ziyi Zhang) is told by director Rob Marshall ("Chicago") in a stoic, straightforward way with just a little of the magic that the story deserves. Sure there is some magic in Marshall's retelling of the Arthur Golden story particularly the dance sequence in which Sayuri makes her reputation as the foremost Geisha in Osaka: in front of an audience of her peers (Gong Li as an almost demon possessed Hatsumomo), her mentor (Michelle Yeoh as Mameha) and her true love ("The Last Samurai's" Ken Watanabe), Sayuri performs a thrilling, beautifully choreographed and staged dance high on drama and sensuality. If only the entire film were on this other-worldly and elegant level.

The production design and costumes are, though: "Memoirs" is eye-poppingly beautiful to behold. Every detail of the Osaka landscape is amazingly perfect particularly since this film was primarily shot on a US studio lot in Southern California. Amazing.

There has been much talk about non-Japanese playing these roles and the fact that all the actors speak in a Japanese inflected English but I found nothing amiss in either case: all of the actors, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian perform admirably and several even more so.

Ziyi Zhang is a revelation here. Her Sayuri is a flesh and blood creation, a dreamer, a girl and a woman with a dream and the talent to back it up: she succeeds through hard work and a desire to rise above her meager beginnings. Zhang, at least in the movies that have been released here, has heretofore played warriors but in "Memoirs" she plays a multi-faceted woman with a deep well of unrequited love and unfulfilled sexuality and she is truly memorable.

"Memoirs of a Geisha" should have been better. As it is, it is too long and the 3rd act is problematic: dull scenes alternate with scenes of high drama. But nothing can diminish the luminous, incandescent power of Ziyi Zhang's Sayuri and because of this "Memoirs" succeeds despite rather than because of itself.
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Location: Southern California United States

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