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Sakuran 2006


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Sakuran follows the ascent of Kiyoha (Anna Tsuchiya, Kamikaze Girls) a rebellious and feisty girl sold to a brothel in the notorious Yoshiwara district; a nightlife zone that served both the elites and working classes for hundreds of years. Kiyoha rises through the ranks of the competitive brothel, initially as the house girl of an established courtesan, learning the trade and eventually becoming Oiran - the preeminent courtesan of the brothel. Headstrong and independent from the outset, Kiyoha is choosy about her customers and defiant to her employers and fellow courtesans; she wants to find her own freedom rather than have a rich merchant buy it for her.

Ai Yamaguchi, Sadanji Ichikawa IV
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Product Details

  • Feature ages_15_and_over
Runtime 1 hour 50 minutes
Starring Ai Yamaguchi, Sadanji Ichikawa IV, Miho Ninagawa, Kippei Shiina, Masatoshi Nagase, Minami, Ken'ichi Endô, Anna Tsuchiya, Miho Kanno, Masanobu Ando, Yoshino Kimura, Hiroki Narimiya
Director Mika Ninagawa
Genres Drama
Studio Fusion Media Sales
Rental release 12 January 2009
Main languages Japanese
Subtitles English

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
The director, Mika Ninagawa, is a professional photographer first and foremost and boy does it show here. Every frame of every scene is composed to maximum artistic effect and as the colours appear to have been ramped up to 11 this is an excellent movie to play on your new Hi-Def TV and impress your friends! If, like me, you love the Japanese aesthetic and have even a passing interest in Japanese culture then this one's for you, though it is a heavily stylised version of a bygone age rather than a historically accurate one.

The movie is basically the story of a feisty young girl sold into the Edo red light area or 'floating world' where she becomes a courtesan when she matures. She is beautiful, rebellious and strong-minded but is still trapped in a world where escape seems impossible (symbolised throughout the film by beautiful closeups of exotic goldfish in a glass tank at the entrance to the red light district.) Consistently used and let down by men she never loses her determination to escape her gilded cage and find love and a free life.

Like Sophia Coppola's 'Marie Antoinette,' Sakuran has a music score which is modern and apparently at odds with the era being depicted but to my mind it comes off better here and fits very well with the exaggerated colours and the design of the clothes which are a major part of this film's visuals.

All in all, I just loved it. Worth it for the visuals alone but it has a lot more going for it than just that. (The main character is played by Anna Tsuchiya who is also in Kamikaze Girls, another Japanese movie well worth checking out.) Highly recommended!
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At first I thought this would be an average film, recreating Edo's "Floating World" but not really exciting me. I was in for a surprise. In fact I enjoyed it so much I wrote a review on Amazon for the first time in years.

The Yoshiwara is lovingly summoned from the depths of history in great colour and detail. We can believe that we're really there and are exposed to the place in all its glory and warts. Some reviewers have said that this film wasn't dark enough, but sometimes an overly dramatic and dark film can divert a viewer's attention from what the director is trying to convey. When Tsuchiya's character feels pain, we feel it clearly. When things are going right for her, we don't necessarily assume that it's a window of relief in a sea of torment.

Tsuchiya's acting is excellent and believable, unlike the dreary Memoirs of a Geisha. We're cheering her character on, as she has a very simple desire - to get out of the Yoshiwara on her own two feet. There's no silly rivalry throughout the whole film, even if there is some present. It's all about the leading lady and her experiences in "history's oldest profession". When I say that this is how Memoirs of a Geisha should have been, I'm talking about the book as well as the film. Golden's story lacks humanity, which is no surprise that it's a twisted version of the geiko Mineko Isawaki's life story (read "Geisha of Gion" if you want to see how "Sayuri" really lived).

About the soundtrack, it is somewhat strange and certainly not to be expected for a film that deals with old Japan, especially something as "beautiful" as the Floating World. But it sets the tone for the film very well. This isn't a tragedy or an idealised page of Japan's history. It was very much a real and vibrant world, no different from the one we live in now. There was kindness, cruelty, jealousy, greed and love. As much as the world changes, it stays the same. The music might just help remind you of this.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Sakuran (cherry blossom) is the debut film of renowned Japanese photographer Mika Ninagawa and the relationship clearly shows - the colours are brilliant and it seems every scene has been chosen to work as a photoshot.

The story revolves around a little girl that gets sold into the 'red lantern district' in Yoshiwara and who in spite of being pretty contrary progresses through the ranks, all the way to becoming the chief courtesan (oiran) of the house. There are several issues the movie touches upon but overall one does not get the impression of the courtesan job being glorified or prettified. There is a lot of jealousy and petty infighting between the 'sisters', all of them are basically confined into a small insular world and they cannot escape their environs, nor their fate, unless they are bought by successful merchants as wifes.

A more or less complete cycle from joining to being elevated to top rank is being shown but the view is slightly more positive and promising than in Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter And Spring [2004] [DVD] - one gets the impression that change, while slow and in small steps only, is possible and the movie generally ends on a positive note.

While the story is fairly well done, and not prettified beyond realistic, what sells this movie is the visuals, first and foremost. In terms of colour, the only thing on the same plane would be something like Hero [DVD] [2002] and as mentioned the cinematography, the scene design etc. are all first rate and the movie is worth seeing for that alone.
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