Memoirs of a Geisha

December 23rd, 2005


Memoirs of a Geisha

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Still of Youki Kudoh in Memoirs of a GeishaStill of Ken Watanabe and Ziyi Zhang in Memoirs of a GeishaMichelle Yeoh at event of Memoirs of a GeishaStill of Li Gong and Ziyi Zhang in Memoirs of a GeishaStill of Ziyi Zhang in Memoirs of a GeishaStill of Ken Watanabe in Memoirs of a Geisha

Nitta Sayuri reveals how she transcended her fishing-village roots and became one of Japan's most celebrated geisha.

Release Year: 2005

Rating: 7.1/10 (55,343 voted)

Critic's Score: 54/100

Director: Rob Marshall

Stars: Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Michelle Yeoh

In 1929 an impoverished nine-year-old named Chiyo from a fishing village is sold to a geisha house in Kyoto's Gion district and subjected to cruel treatment from the owners and the head geisha Hatsumomo. Her stunning beauty attracts the vindictive jealousy of Hatsumomo, until she is rescued by and taken under the wing of Hatsumomo's bitter rival, Mameha. Under Mameha's mentorship, Chiyo becomes the geisha named Sayuri, trained in all the artistic and social skills a geisha must master in order to survive in her society. As a renowned geisha she enters a society of wealth, privilege, and political intrigue. As World War II looms Japan and the geisha's world are forever changed by the onslaught of history.

Writers: Robin Swicord, Arthur Golden

Suzuka Ohgo - Chiyo
Togo Igawa - Tanaka
Mako - Sakamoto
Samantha Futerman - Satsu
Elizabeth Sung - Sakamoto's Wife
Thomas Ikeda - Mr. Bekku
Li Gong - Hatsumomo (as Gong Li)
Tsai Chin - Auntie
Kaori Momoi - Mother
Zoe Weizenbaum - Young Pumpkin
David Okihiro - Shamisen Teacher
Miyako Tachibana - Dance Teacher
Kotoko Kawamura - Granny
Karl Yune - Koichi
Eugenia Yuan - Korin


Official Website: (Quicktime) | Buena Vista Japan [Japan] |

Release Date: 23 December 2005

Filming Locations: American River, Sacramento, California, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $85,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $682,504 (USA) (11 December 2005)

Gross: $157,749,686 (Worldwide) (17 April 2006)

Technical Specs

Runtime:  | Philippines:

Did You Know?

Maggie Cheung was once considered for the role of Mameha.

Anachronisms: The dance performed by Sayuri during her debut is of a dance style that was invented as a reaction to the tragedy of World War II.

Hatsumomo: Stay out of my room. Your fingers smell. I can't have you touching my things.

User Review

Duel in the Rising Sun


Looking over previous comments here, it is clear that this is a very polarizing movie experience, one that seems to put "Syriana" to shame in that realm. Director Rob Marshall has taken a best selling novel and turned out a feature film that it appears some people love and some absolutely hate. Count me in the first category, but allow me to indulge the critics, too.

First, this isn't a typical Hollywood film. Despite popular western misconceptions about Geishas, there's no sex, almost no violence and beyond that, there's nearly two and a half hours of women's problems that many men may find hard to relate to. This is not "Desperate Housewives" or even "All my Children." This is about deceit, treachery and rivalries as much as it is about a little girl who gets sold into bondage by her impoverished Japanese family. Its also about a lifelong search for love in a society in which people apparently can't just step up and make frank declarations of devotion to one another. This movie is in a word "complicated" and that is going to turn some American movie goers off.

But not all Asian film fans are raving about this movie either, some thinking it is a very superficial look at Japnese customs and others incensed that a movie that's about an important Japanese tradition should star three Chinese actresses. I cannot comment on either topic, since I know little or nothing about Japanese tradition and I don't know why Ziyi Zhang, Michelle Yoeh and Gong Li were cast. They have been seen before by American audiences, but are hardly film stars in this country, so it wasn't as if they were going to draw in tons of fans on their names alone.

The only thing I can think of is, all three are fine actresses and they more than proved that in this film. If Gong Li does not get a best supporting actress nomination, there's no justice. And Zhang should probably get a crack at best actress for her work, as well.

All three just light up the screen.

But, I can understand in this age of political correctness, how some would be offended by the casting and how others might complain about the handling of the Japanese subject matter.

All I can say is, movie makers face trade offs and one is either targeting your film to a mass audience (and in America, that means a generally poorly educated audience) or "narrow casting" your film to people very well acquainted with the topic who will swoop down on any flaw. But that, when dealing with a topic like Japanese geisha culture, is a pretty small audience in America, too small to generate the kind of box office a film like this needs to pull in to pay for itself. From a purely Anglo, American, unschooled in Japanese culture standpoint, I think Marshall made good decisions. I hope he has not slighted Japanese culture too much, but I think he has made a suspenseful, captivating, enchanting film that does something a lot of films haven't in recent years.

He gave us a complex central character we can pull for throughout the film and for that, I thank him.

"Memoirs of a Geisha" ranks among my five best films of the year thus far, and deserves a best picture nomination.


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