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The Geisha Movie that Should Have Never Been Filmed

The first sentence in the narrator's voice was "a story this horrid should have never been told." And yet there I was, sitting at the movie theater watching the Memoirs of a Geisha, a film that "should have never been told." As much as I respect good writers and authors, it's daunting to me how illogical or oxy-moronic they can be. Nevertheless, I gave the film the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps, the film should be told, despite the false-modesty from the start. I was wrong.

It wasn't so much that the movie was poorly filmed or that the actors played the parts poorly. In fact, it's just the opposite. You see, the cinematography of this film is executed flawlessly. Zhang Ziyi and Michelle Yeoh's performances were brilliant. Despite the fact that I told my friends, "by casting two well-known Chinese actresses to play Japanese roles would ruin my suspension of disbelief." It turned out, their performances were so good, I never once would consider the fact that they were not Japanese in the film. So, why was I wrong about whether the story should be told?

The Memoirs of a Geisha portaits a young girl sold into a geisha house by her penniless, ill parents. She started as a personal slave to the brutal mother of the geisha house. But was later found to be quality geisha material by a rival geisha house owner (think fairy god mother). Sounds familiar? It's the Cinderella premise.

There is a twist. The handsome prince of this story is not only twenty years older than her, but he already has several geishas for company. He is also indebted to his business partner for saving his life. Therefore, when his business partner falls madly in love with her, a love triangle--not so different from ones you'd find in soap operas--develops and thickens the plot.

Memoirs of a Geisha is basically a collection of old story-telling cliches dressed up in traditional Japanese customs. Call it Cinderella in kimono if you will. Every hardship that the girl endured was meant to stir up emotion in the audience. Unfortunately, having seen so many cliches, everything was predictable and nothing in the film could suspend my disbelief. Therefore, I didn't fall into any of the emotional traps sprung in various locations in the film. No one else seemed to have cried in a packed theater either.

And what is the final bomb drop? The happy ending! I ask, "how can a story so horrid that it should never been told have a happy ending?" Apparently the narrator/author of the Memoirs of a Geisha has a different definition of horrid than mine. From the get-go and even at the end of the film, I felt that the narrator/author was right all along--this is a story that should never have been told.

Chieh Cheng
Mon, 9 Jan 2006 18:40:06 -0800

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