“A story like mine should have never been told”.
Then why should it be?
The statement that begins the film is meant to invoke curiosity among audience over a sacred quality of the life of a geisha. Apparently, it turns out to be highly sacred that the filmmakers chooses a particular point of view which does not differentiate the life of a geisha from any other women. The view is on turning the story into a Japanese Cinderella.
A poor girl must face obstacles put by another girls living under the same roof in order to gain her destiny, as destined by a man she longs to be with ever since she meets him incidentally.
I shall refrain myself from telling the end of the story, although by now we feel familiar with the story as has been told many times under different backdrop, such as Gary Marshall’s Pretty Woman and many other followers. And thus, those who expects Memoirs of a Geisha probes more on the nuanced lives of Japan’s highly acclaimed courtesan, will bound to be disappointed.
Perhaps what sets the film apart from many others is the director’s ability to lure the best of the film’s technical aspects. The collaboration of John Williams with two giants of violinist, Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, gives the film a grand atmosphere without ever succumbing to the trap of Oriental music as might be blatantly used to emphasize the film’s Eastern-penchant look. The same goes to Colleen Atwood’s deft costume design which does not intricate in unnecessary details, yet in many ways it is enough to convey us the pivotal look of geisha in 1940s as the story is told.
Yet, the lives of a geisha should be more than parading of extravagant Oriental looks. The intricacies of their lives are the qualities that made the novel which the film is from became a highly praised novel that earned both commercial and critical success in late ‘90s, and these qualities are mercilessly excised from the film, leaving Sayuri’s voice haplessly saying:
“This is memoirs of any other kind.”