Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
USA, 2005. Columbia Pictures Corporation, DreamWorks, Spyglass Entertainment, Amblin Entertainment, Red Wagon Entertainment. Screenplay by Robin Swicord, based on the book by Arthur Golden. Cinematography by Dion Beebe. Produced by Lucy Fisher, Steven Spielberg, Douglas Wick. Music by John Williams. Production Design by John Myhre. Costume Design by Colleen Atwood. Film Editing by Pietro Scalia. Academy Awards 2005. Golden Globe Awards 2005. New York Film Critics Awards 2005.
Shallow, endless adaptation of Arthur Golden’s unbelievably successful bestseller, with Ziyi Zhang as a poor young Japanese girl who is taken from her home as a child and sold into the home of a geisha when her mother dies. Raised as a servant girl, she is eventually taken under the wing of mentor Michelle Yeoh (who is superb) and turned into the country’s most celebrated geisha. This creates nothing but bloody enmity with the reigning queen of the night, Li Gong (who is, as always, ravishing), and their feud threatens Zhang’s happiness and livelihood at every step. Meanwhile, our heroine has been nursing a secret love for a politician (Ken Watanabe) whose giving her a kind word as a child has now turned into a lifelong obsession. Their chemistry is absolute zilch and definitely not worth the payoff at the end of this boring two hour-plus trek, but the same can be said of all the relationships here. The wooden script can’t get any real passion out of the actresses, who do some terrific work but don’t overcome the awkward English dialogue being spoken in stilted accents. Director Rob Marshall (Chicago) does a terrific job of making everything look beautiful, it’s one of the most eye-popping spectacles of its year, but the airheaded dramatic content owes more of its style and technique to the exotic Josef von Sternberg melodramas of the thirties than to anything resembling Ozu or Mizoguchi.