Memoirs Of A Geisha
Time Out says
Rob Marshall’s first film was ‘Chicago’ and ‘Memoirs…’ ain’t short on razzle-dazzle. Colours, costumes and design are relentlessly luminous, sumptuous and exquisite, even at the plot’s lowest points: when Sayuri is cruelly ravished, it’s in front of a collection of antique kimonos; when she’s evacuated to rural poverty yards of glorious silk still billow in the wind. Could these be intended as intimations of the dark side of glamour? If so, they ring hollow in a film rendered kitsch by its own conspicuous artifice: the liberties with Japanese period detail, the use of Chinese actors, the English dialogue.
Yet ‘Memoirs…’ does engage as a tale of ‘this tiny world of women’, with its venomous rivalry and unexpected kindness. Gong Li steals the show as bitchy top dog Hatsumomo while Michelle Yeoh is all class as Sayuri’s mentor. Zhang Ziyi is sympathetic in the lead but Sayuri is ultimately dispiritingly passive: while all around her sisters are doing it for themselves, she is moulded by others and longs only for a big, strong man. This fairy-tale sentimentality pales besides such bracingly nasty moments as when the okiya mother, suspecting Hatsumomo of illicit sex, jams her fingers into her crotch and sneeringly sniffs.