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Memoirs of a Geisha


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SZPT wrote:

: Given what Mr. Marshall did to Anne Rice's Exit to Eden, I doubt it.

No, that was Garry Marshall. Yes, the Princess Diaries guy. You can tell, because Hector Elizondo is in that film (as the guy who runs the island, IIRC).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 4 months later...

Part of this production is currently being filmed a couple of miles from me, in Old Sacramento, which has sections that are being decorated as Kyoto, Japan. I think filming may have started here yesterday.

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 8 months later...

Well, it certainly looks visually rewarding. Haven't read the book, though, so I don't know if the same will apply to the story.

That's just how eye roll.

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As interesting as films about traditional cultures turning into modernized ones tend to be, Ziyi Zhang's poor English and the lack of anything that caught my eye in the trailer will probably mean I skip this one.

I'm a little scared that it will be an Oscar contender just because of Marshall and Ziyi Zhang. I expect The Promise to be a superior film and I hope it's not overshadowed by this one. It was bad enough that Ziyi Zhang's face/name were used to advertise Hero (rather than Asian acting legends Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung) when she had about 10 minutes of total screentime. I guess if I was a marketer I'd use the pretty 26 year old that people may have actually heard of too, but it didn't seem fair to the film.

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::It was bad enough that Ziyi Zhang's face/name were used to advertise Hero (rather than Asian acting legends Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung) when she had about 10 minutes of total screentime. I guess if I was a marketer I'd use the pretty 26 year old that people may have actually heard of too, but it didn't seem fair to the film.

[tangent]Kind of like the way George Clooney 'starred' in The Thin Red Line...

[/tangent]

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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  • 4 weeks later...

Jeffrey Wells' early remarks:

And at no point does Memoirs of a Geisha feel like anything more than a colorful but perfunctory corporate tour of an exotic culture, tailor-made for Disney World Americans who won't pay to see movies with subtitles.

Ouch.

Here's how it starts:

Rob Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha (Columbia, 12.9) is this year's model of the big bland Best Picture contender that everyone who isn't a sucker for this kind of thing -- expensive, beautifully produced, Oscar-hungry, terminally boring -- needs to throw tomatoes at.

Seriously...let's start the ball rolling now. IM your friends and coworkers and tell them you've heard it's a tedious costume-movie drag, but also that it's caught a certain headwind and there's a slight chance it could metastasize into this year's Chicago.

The best thing about it is Gong Li's performance as a jealous-bitch geisha in a Bette Davis mode. Otherwise the film is all costumes and pretty photography and a rags-to-riches story that creeps along at a petty pace.

It's porcelain, nothing, stupefying...and every Godforsaken line of Chinese-accent English-language dialogue is like screeching chalk.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I've seen the trailer a couple times now, and the way the main character says something like "I want a life that is mine!" just rubs me the wrong way. It panders too much to the middlebrow escapist fantasies of, well, the Disney World audience to which Jeffrey Wells refers.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 4 weeks later...
The best thing about it is Gong Li's performance as a jealous-bitch geisha in a Bette Davis mode. Otherwise the film is all costumes and pretty photography and a rags-to-riches story that creeps along at a petty pace.

8O 8O

::w00t:: ::w00t::

I was going to start a separate tribute thread to Li's performance and title it "Most Insanely Over the Top Performance of 2005," then allow others to post their own choice. But I'll just stick it in here.

Funny thing is, Li IS the best thing in this movie, the only interesting thing about it. I spent half the movie distracted by her amazing beauty before realizing that she was in full "Mommie Dearest" mode. After that, I perked up every time she appeared, wondering just what she might do to top herself.

It must be seen to be believed.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Gong Li's surname is Gong, not Li--just like Ziyi Zhang's name was Zhang Ziyi before it was westernized.

I'm 90% sure I'm going to dislike this movie (even aside from the "Ooh look, exotic Asians!" factor, the central romance strikes me as, well, creepy). Nevertheless, some part of me still wants to see it--the same part that likes looking at Vogue and watches The Ten Commandments and Gone With the Wind whenever they're on TV. It's the pretty clothes. And the chance to hear lines like "Moses, you stubborn, splendid adorable Fool!" for the nth time. :D

And I love Gong Li anyway. Even when she's not hissing lines like "I shall destroy you!!" in a Chinese-Japanese-English pangloss. The Village Voice mentions her performance here.

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Gong Li's surname is Gong, not Li--just like Ziyi Zhang's name was Zhang Ziyi before it was westernized.

I learned this convention only a year or so ago, but it's easy for me to forget.

Thanks for catching that. In fact, I'd been thinking about this very thing since yesterday, when I saw the film and was contemplating what I might have to say about it. "Just remember to get the name references right," I told myself -- to no avail.

Reading the NY Times review, I see that they go with "Ms. Gong" and "Ms. Zhang." Although I haven't popped up other reviews, I'm thinking they don't usually add the "Ms." to Western names, and that this usage was specific to this film, because they thought readers may have been confused.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Gong Li's surname is Gong, not Li--just like Ziyi Zhang's name was Zhang Ziyi before it was westernized.

I learned this convention only a year or so ago, but it's easy for me to forget.

It's also easy to get confused because some (like IMDB) flip names to put the surname last. Sometimes you're never sure which way is westernized and which isn't.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Sometimes you're never sure which way is westernized and which isn't.

True. In some cases, you just have to guess. To add to the confusion, different translation systems (and perhaps conventions and norms) may hold sway in different countries. There are some preliminary rules of thumb, but they can only take you so far. The ones I know of are these, with qualifications in asterisks:

1) In Chinese, the surname comes before the personal name.

2) The surname almost always consists of one syllable. (e.g. "Zhang," or "Hou")

*There are 4-5 two-syllable cases I can think of, but they are rare, and in most cases so archaic as to be irrelevant for our purpose here (e.g. looking at names on IMDB lists).

3) The personal name may range from one syllable to two in length.

4) If the personal name has two syllables:

a) Under the Mainland system, it would be joined as one word (e.g. "Yimou").

b ) Under the system used in Taiwan (and I think HK), it would have a hyphen in between (e.g. "Hsiao-hsien").

*I've heard that Taiwan has changed their system very recently (so much so that it hasn't remotely begun to effect the terms of our discussion here). Not sure about HK.

Thus if you see a name like "Cui Fengming," for example, you know that "Cui" is the family name and "Fengming" the personal name. If it's a name like "Tzu-yi Chang," "Tzu-yi" would be the personal name and "Chang" the surname.

5) If the personal name has one syllable:

Well, you're out of luck. You just have to guess. But here are some (even hazier) generalizations to keep in mind:

Most Chinese I know in the US have westernized their names so that the family name comes last, if they haven't decided to take on an American name: it just saves a lot of confusion that way.

However, at least in the past, most "famous people" (political figures, actors, athletes, etc) in mainland China have kept with the original formation: family name first, personal name second. Some examples I can think of offhand: Mao Zedong, Jiang Zemin, Bai Ling, Chow Yun-fat, Chen Lu. This may have been out of government pressure or pride; I don't know. Perhaps the norms/strictures are loosening, as may be reflected in Ziyi Zhang's decision to switch her name around; I honestly don't know. But in general, if it's a mainland celebrity primarily known outside the West, I'd err on assuming that the family name goes first.

I hope the explanation's clear; sorry that it was longwinded. Is there anyone else here who can add to the list, or correct any mistakes on my part?

Edited by glatisant
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  • 2 weeks later...

Oh, yeah. There's a movie to talk about. My wife loved it (but she's a sucker for visual - and the film is visually wonderful). I was quite fond of John Williams's score (performed by Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman). My wife thought they did a decent job of translating the book to film. I found the story adequate until it got to the happy ending where I think she could probably hear my eyes rolling.

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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  • 8 years later...

Zadie Smith, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, 2009, pg. 182 -

... In the end, it is poor plotting and not cultural inauthenticity that is the true problem here.  Authenticity is not everything in cinema.  (Who cared about the authenticity of culture and locale in Yentl?  In Meet Me in St. Louis?)  Memoirs of a Geisha hurts the heart and the brain with its crushing monotony, inert, subhuman dialogue (made more ridiculous by being spoken in English with a faux Japanese accent) and Marshall's calculated attempt to sell us another Hollywood fairy tale of prostitution.  This tale was also in Pretty Woman.

 

Marshall manages only one scene that dispenses with the fantasy.  Sayuri is welcomed back to the okiya by Mother, having sold her virginity to the highest bidder.  "Now you are a geisha!" crows Mother, but her eyes are wet.  Sayuri's gray blue eyes are dead.  A noxious tradition continues.  It is a beautiful scene.  It makes the endless blossom look like scrub.

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