Sunday, January 15, 2006
Going in to this movie a conversation kept going through my head. It was during an interview with Morgan Freeman by Terry Gross on NPR discussing his directing of "Bopha!". "Bopha!" is about South Africa and Apartheid. Terry asked him why he wasn't acting in the movie. Morgan's reply was, "my skin isn't dark enough." Terry's reply was to the effect of "skin tone doesn't matter to anyone", and Morgan said: "it matters to me."
Much ado has been made about Ziyi Zhang being Chinese --Michelle Yeoh as well-- in a movie about Japanese Geisha. It is the magic of the Gemini mind that allows me to enjoy a flawed movie and respect Morgan Freeman.
To the movie proper then: a tale of another culture, told in classic Hollywood Christmas style: big costumes, big sets with a liberal dose of heart rending drama. Sorta like "King Kong" without the scale. A period costume piece if you will.
I did not get the same sense of shame from this film that I did "Last Samurai", or "Shogun". It was an enjoyable enough story, great costumes and a cool cloth dyeing scene. I would watch a documentary on kimonos!
Not a lot of gratuitious bare flesh, befitting perhaps the Geisha code of aloof beauty and women as unattainable posession. Great acting from all the leads as well as very good english. What Japanese was heard was intentionally unsubbed.
I am one to look for politics in films and art but this was a story with an historical setting, not an imperial feel good movie or a shocking expose. "Geisha" is a love story, and a whole lot easier on the sensibility than say..."the Notebook"--for example. See this one with both eyes open without shame, it could have been much worse.