Sunday, December 27, 2009

Movie: Memoirs of a Geisha

I recently watched Memoirs of a Geisha, based on the novel by Arthur Golden. Having read the book some years ago, I was looking forward to the film, but only now got around to viewing it. I remember that this was one of the few books that held me. I read from morning until night, devouring the beautiful prose. And that Golden wrote convincingly as the women in this story is impressive.

A line that stood out for me in the movie is in the following clip where Mameha tells Chiyo that “ the very word Geisha means artist and to be a Geisha means to be judged as a moving work of art.” I find this line to be so beautiful and the movie is itself just that.

One more very short clip that shows two dance sequences is this one:

The movie is also very sad at times. I won't say too much more, just in case. I don't know if the movie is accurate in its portrayal of the Geisha, but it is definitely a work of art that makes me realize the many perfected arts and beauty that seem to be a part of the Japanese culture.


jiturajgor said...

I saw this movie before three years and I found it impressive,technically and story vise, but it gave me couple of insomnic nights. The scene of city [outer world] protagonist saw from top roof window for the first time made me sad.I judge it as a robbery of primary freedom rather then an art [ a geisha tradition and not a film].

Rebb said...

I had the movie on my night table for weeks before I watched it because I was afraid it was going to be too haunting. I was able to sleep, thank goodness. I agree it is unfortunate that the way of life of a geisha in this movie is portrayed ultimately as a "robbery of primary freedom." A difficult situation to be in--survival in a way that takes your life from you.

Thanks for your comments.

keiko amano said...


I didn’t want to comment for this blog because I was afraid to offend anyone including you. I don’t know if I am able to express my true compassion with fairness. But here goes.

I think a very sad story and ugly truth stuck every geisha. Most Japanese turn our head away from the subject. Talking about it could offend the descendants of geisha, and they are probably multiplied over the years. There is nothing we can do for them today. And I don’t know if glorifying them makes the descendants happy. The descendants probably wish not a descendant of any geisha if they had a choice. Also, if you call geisha arts, the arts must be in the genre of extremely exploited. When I read that they learned ocha, I wondered what kind of tea master would go to geisha houses to give lessons. I couldn’t imagine it. Writers need to convince readers how those unthinkable events actually happened in what process.

To me, writing a very sad and ugly truth, writers have responsibility to see to it that the life of those exploited people are respected with utmost care. I read that the model ex-geisha for the main character helped the writer throughout his writing. I didn’t read the whole book, but I did read here and there. And I could see the writer could not have done such a great job, for instance, when he described how the geisha wore her kimono. She must have shown him from her undergarment stage. She seemed to go beyond the call of her duty to help him out. After the book was published or translated, she sued him. The whole story continues to be ugly and sad and exploited. What do you think we should do? I don’t have an answer.

Rebb said...

Keiko, I'm glad that you commented. I was hoping that you would because I had a feeling that you would be able to bring a perspective about the reality that was missing. It is sad and I did not know about the law suit.

Even though the book, the story is beautifully told; and the book seems to convey the horrors better than the movie, the author chose to, in essence, romanticize a tragic part of history. It's tricky isn't it? When art meets history and, now knowing that the author overstepped his boundaries, makes me feel that he betrayed his readers, the woman, everyone. I completely understand what you mean about respecting the decedents and everyone involved.

Thank you for bringing this up and reminding about the realities of this. I don't think there is too much more that we can do, except to hope that those involved find some sort of peace and to always question the truth as it’s presented. it's a good reminder also, as you point out, that writers/artists have a responsibility to act morally, with respect, and with authenticity, especially when dealing with a sensitive part of history.

p.s. always feel free to express yourself here. :)

keiko amano said...


Thank you. Some of my opinion is very tough to come out. But writing is all about courage as the last Mare’s comment to Jitu’s blog mentioned. I agree with the statement.

By the way, I forgot to mention that I researched a bit on this subject and found a good article written by a young Japanese man. He is probably a journalist. It seems younger Japanese generation are similar in reaction as yours than mine. After all, they are growing up not seeing their mother wearing kimono. Most of them do not own kimono. They probably sit at a table with chairs daily. And older Japanese generation tends to be quiet about their sad past.

Rebb said...

Keiko, Seems to me, although your opinion was tough to come out, it came out well. Yes, I agree about Mare’s comment on Jitu’s blog about courage. I continue to work on my courage little by little.

That’s what’s great about your generation, you hold a piece of the truth that you can share that makes us understand all perspectives. It’s interesting how generations really do hold common ways of relating to their worlds. That’s one of the fascinating things I learned to appreciate more when I took the Asian American Literature course. Some of the books we read highlighted the generational differences, as well as the older Japanese versus the American born Japanese differences. Very fascinating. It’s nothing new, but not something I’m not exposed to very much, and I wouldn’t normally pay attention, but the class made us look closer.