Thursday, January 26, 2006

Memoirs of a Geisha - A Review




During my early childhood my father used to play a game with me and my sister. He would start telling us a story about a ghost. The story would start with a man getting off the train on a forlorn railway station at late night. The man would find a horrific looking man with a horse-cab and would ask him to take to a nearby village. On the way the cabman would stop and would say he has seen a ghost. And my father would stop there saying, “Now more, next time.” Do I need to tell you that there was never a next time. My sister and I would beg, order and throw all types of tantrums to make him finish. But he would never. He just enjoyed this. However, he used to say this simple story with such wonderful expressions, both linguistic and vocal, that we would be completely engrossed in the process. However, at the end, we would be disappointed not because that a story with such potential never got completed, but because we didn’t got what we were promised.

Watching ‘Memoirs of Geisha’ somewhat reminded me of this episode of my childhood, because by the end, I was left with the same sense of disappointment. The movie leaves you with a deep sense of deprivation because it doesn’t give you what it promises. Throughout the story, I used to feel that “now, it will take off”............... “now, it will take off, and it never happened.
However, 'Memoirs of a Geisha' has a wonderful story. Its the story of a girl, sold at an early age to become a Geisha, her infatuation with an elder man she meets during her childhood and even the man's secret reciprocation to her love. The movie has a very strong story. Moreover, it happens in Japan during the Second World War, hence it has an excellent premise. The movie boasts of a highly talented and internationally renowned cast – Ziyi Zhang (Crouching tiger hidden dragon, House of flying daggers); Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow never dies, CTHD), Ken Watanbe (The last samurai) and Li Gong (2046). However, a poor screenplay and dull direction wastes this excellent opportunity. The screenplay acts like a dumb striker in a football game, who wastes every single opportunity of scoring a goal. Let me reiterate, the storyline is simply superb and provides with an excellent opportunity for a ‘classic’ movie. The story is all about a girl’s emotions, and one would expect a lot especially when the scriptwriter is a woman (Robin Swicord).

Well, this is not a bad movie in all senses of the term. For the sake of three gorgeous ladies, a novel love story and a peep in ethnic Japanese culture, this movie is worth watching at least once. I am expecting an Oscar nomination in the category of costume design. Cinematography is immaculate. Musical score has already begged a golden globe. Ziyi Zhang has given a commendable performance. However, my personal favorite from this movie is Li Gong, who plays a very complex character with a negative shade. I was surprised, why didn’t she get a golden globe nomination for the best actress in a supporting role?

Finally one thing about the director and the art of direction. I just couldn’t help feeling throughout the movie. Human faces have its own science of expression. A director needs to understand this science. Director needs to know, how to use the facial expression of the artist and for this he needs to know this ‘science’ of facial expression. I just feel that director Rob Marshal is unaware of the geography of Mongoloid faces. Just try to remember the quality of work both Zyang and Yeoh gave under the direction of Ang Lee (Brokebeck Mountain). Ang Lee is a Taiwanese-American and knows how to mix the best of both worlds. (Can you believe that the same guy made Sense and Sensibility, Crouching Tigers Hidden Dragon and Brokebeck Mountain?)

Well, after a long time an impersonal post! Hope you all would like it!