Memoirs Of A Geisha

 (10,705)7.32 h 25 min2005X-RayPG-13
A Cinderella story set in a mysterious and exotic world, this stunning romantic epic shows how a house servant blossoms, against all odds, to become the most captivating geisha of her day.
Rob Marshall
Shizuko HoshiZiyi ZhangKen Watanabe
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Michelle YeohKoji YakushoGong Li
Lucy FisherDoug WickSteven Spielberg
Columbia Pictures
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Content advisory
Drug usefoul languagesexual contentviolence
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4.8 out of 5 stars

10705 global ratings

  1. 89% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 7% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 3% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 1% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 1% of reviews have 1 stars

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Top reviews from the United States

PookobutaReviewed in the United States on April 17, 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
Movie is great - but a lot is never told
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From the visuals to the drama, this is beautiful to watch and enjoy. But as a descendant of a an actual geisha from this specific time period I can say a lot is omitted. Many people who watch this or read the book original and similar works rely that the original sources are reliable of what the life of a geisha in the early 20th century was like. What is often left out is a bigger picture of Japanese society and culture of the period out side the geisha, the okiya, and the patron. So if there are any history buffs on this matter, these are the questions the movie nor the books really talk about.
1. The private lives of the men who hire a geisha. Usually they are married with children. What is their family life like? It's no surprise that the wives know that their husbands are have one or more geisha. The children of these men know as well and often know when dad's come home after a drinking party. What do they think of their father's behavior? Sons and daughters will interpret this differently. Daughters will know this is what married life is like sharing a husband with other women.
2. A man who enjoys their time with a geisha doesn't just stay with one geisha, nor with a geisha alone. As you saw in the scene where Chiyo's sister lived, there are prostitutes of different levels as well. A man may sleep with both a geisha and less expensive women of the evening simultaneously and his wife and family know about it. I knew one relative who had his wife serve her husband and his geisha in the home estate. Also the wife's brothers may also be seeing geisha. In some cases a man might ask his own brother-in-law to join him in his affair. This can be hard on the wife when her own brother is actively financing her husbands affairs, again I know this from personal sources.

When a man is sleeping with geisha (remember a danna after a mizuage will have sexual liaisons with his geisha) can also sleep with prostitutes and get STD which he can pass to his wife, his geisha, and of course he himself and everyone ends up needing medical treatment...and who pays for it? Yeah it happens. And of course the physicians like Dr. Crab knows all about it and kind of has power of his wealthy patients, imagine the implications. Also, many Japanese died of the tuberculosis epidemic during this time, both men and women, and there was no antibiotics until after WWII. Almost of all my relatives of the time contracted TB and some died some lived regardless of their class.

3. The school scene where Chiyo and Pumpkin are sent to "geisha school". Sorry, this is not their only training. Geisha also learned to read and write and basic math and for that sometimes they went to public school with regular children. They were also dressed and groomed so the fact they lived in a okiya and not with their family was obvious to their classmates and their teachers. It's no big surprise that it would be an isolating experience at best.
4. Between the low level prostitutes and the geisha are layers of businesses that offered sex for money, for example the "kashi-zashiki". Sometimes these can be run by a family with children, like a tavern with extra rooms and resident ladies who catered to clients in-house, with the owner's children and grandparents all in the same household.
5. Japanese society in general looked down on the women who entertained American GIs like Pumpkin. During the war, some these new geisha became businesswomen and used their American contacts either as wives or patrons to start their own business, often as restaurant owners outside of Japan. Chiyo could be one of these.

6. We see Chiyo's story end happily but what happens to retired aging geisha after WWII when the old way becomes illegal? What happens when geisha have children? What is the perspective of children if they are even told that they are children of geisha. What is their life like growing up, getting married. Remember, if Chiyo had a child, official documents are kept in the "yakusho" showing lineage. What is the relationship of a geisha's children with the wife's children and knowing the father is providing for more than one family?

You get the picture. This is a good movie and a well crafted story. But it hardly gives a complete picture of the geisha's image by women and men at the time. Today, women choose to become geisha and they are in control of their lives. And the books that talk of geisha's life gloss over the extended family details mostly because those who lived at the time of Chiyo/Sayuri are long dead and gone. Researchers and writers often don't have access to the descendants of these danna/patrons and their wives and family circle so the accounts tend to be limited to a few aged geisha who were probably quite young during the Taisho/early Showa and willing to talk. Basically any geisha story without input from the men's wives and children are incomplete - as one of those descendants, I can attest to that.
125 people found this helpful
ZolaReviewed in the United States on January 30, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Love this movie
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So years ago I feel in love with this movie and it’s great....

...but after maturing I’m starting to realize this is a really sad story. Not to be a feminist but it paints women in a very sad light, which may have been true because of the culture.

It’s kind of hard to see a little girl (under the age of 10 or so) falls in love with a grown man who looks like he’s in his forties who falls in love with the little girl that he basically remembers her, ask his friend to take her under her wing and train her to be a geisha...

Doesn’t that sound a little creepy? I bought he book and read that before I saw the movie and the movie is just what I imagined while reading.

Overall I love it even the music, especially the Chairman Waltz :)
43 people found this helpful
CasanReviewed in the United States on December 19, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Awesome film
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What impressed me the most was Disc #2, where we get all the extras. Pumpkin speaks perfect English, whereas the lead character had to speak her English phonetically. She does a few lines in English in the film. Gong Li, that most beautiful woman, has been my favorite for years. Last, the music score is perfect with Yo Yo Ma on cello, and Isaac Perlman on violin. John Williams composed the score; thank God it didn't sound like Star Wars. An amazing film.
15 people found this helpful
SarS.Reviewed in the United States on November 1, 2019
1.0 out of 5 stars
Gah!!! Gimme more!!
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I loved this story, but it ended too short with the lovers. I wish they extended the two lovers to marriage. I needed more. It was such a tease of a cat and mouse chase through the whole movie. The two lovers finally kiss at the end of the movie and thats it??? There should be a sequel to this titled, “50 shades of a Geisha”.
16 people found this helpful
Brian K. MillerReviewed in the United States on April 18, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Destined to be a classic
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Some movies capture a time and place in a way so accurate one is tempted to treat them as historical. This is one of those. While it is not biographical, nor does it revolve around the life of any particular geisha, it captures the time, place, and personalities of World War Two era Japan in a way that is both captivating and informative. I would not hesitate to use this movie as an extra credit assignment in a history class.
10 people found this helpful
PjReviewed in the United States on April 29, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
I really like this movie.
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I have watched this movie several times. It is beautifully shot and acted. It takes you in with the narration, the characters, the story and music. It weirded me out some that a little girl fell in love with a grown man who was kind to her and he inturn fell for her possibly a few years later. I found this more of a sad story not because of starcrossed love but because the life of the women depended only on being subservient which was demeaning. It was very sad that a young beautiful girl's only dream in life was to be this older man's " other woman" ( the men never would leave their wives and children for their geisha) and that was her happy ending,her dream come true. There was no other dream for her.
4 people found this helpful
Anthony CarringtonReviewed in the United States on December 20, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Thrilling memoirs on film.
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This has to be one of my favorite movies, I loved this movie so much that I just had to read the book (and again a favorite). The ladies did a great job of bringing their characters to life especially Gong Li as Hatsumomo, she portrayal of her was prefect, she had her malicious and b**chy personality down to a science, Michelle Yeoh's turn as her rival Mameha's sweet and slightly mischievous personality great as well. The two of them played off of each other well and with the others too. But of course Zhang Ziyi as Chiyo/Sayuri was great she carried awesomely, she too got her sweet and naive but bold personas correct too. On the other hand the guys could have been better cast (Ken Watanbe was ok) but then again this a movie where a good 85% of the focus and story was on the ladies and its female cast did a wonderful job of keeping me interested and enjoyed in journey.
12 people found this helpful
Lawrence RobertsReviewed in the United States on May 6, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
One of the Best Ever, Supported by great acting, and a harsh, but emphathatic story line.
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A brilliant, harshly realistic movie about a society that did exist, and still has memories today.

I loved this movie. First of all two of the best actresses of the modern screen era Li Gong, and Zhang Ziyi play the two lead roles. That is like having Katherine Hepburn and Meryl Streep in a movie together! But yes, Americans – please have enough respect to pronounce their names correctly – in China – surname first, given name second. And, yes, these were Chinese ladies playing Japanese geishas'.

The story itself is heartbreaking, uplifting, disappointing, and tragic. This woman, who goes from being sold by her family, to becoming a chattel slave to a geisha mistress, to becoming a geisha, to losing the only hope for the great love of her life to …. Well the end. Watch it. And see the end.

The acting is simply superb. The costumes – brilliant and historically correct. The scenes of the streets, the chambers, the silky, wafting illusions of beautiful young women floating into the fantasies of men who could lust for them, but not touch them. Wonderful.

It is nevertheless about the ruthless exploitation of women. Of a systemic powerlessness of women. You cannot escape that message in this movie. But you likewise cannot escape the incredible resilience, cleverness, defiance, and hopeful sacrifice of one woman for another in this movie. It is not all about the exploitation of women. It is also, and very much about the strength, courage, resilience, camaraderie, and hope in the face of seemingly never ending exploitation of women, that only women can express and understand. And yet, sometimes, women do succeed , are victorious, and even in the worst cases - they survive.

Well, I am not a woman. Maybe I got it wrong. But that is what I saw and felt. So ladies, correct me please if I got it wrong.

This is one of the great movies of all time: story, acting, cinematography, scenes, costumes, and flow of the storyline.
2 people found this helpful
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