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07 Dezember 2005

Muddled Memoirs of that Geisha

Based on my viewing of the trailers that pop up on TV for "Memoirs of a Geisha", I can already anticipate my beef with this film, namely that the two female leads are not Japanese and thus...totally DO NOT LOOK Japanese at all.

A non-Japanese geisha? Holy Madame Butterly Syndrome, this is Most Interesting!

I hereby fie on all the 'Oscar buzz' that I'm hearing surrounding this film. And on a side note, is it just me, or is just about EVERY film coming out now the " that critics are saying has Oscar written ALL over it...!" Anything to get us in the theaters during this year bereft of outstanding Hollywood films. These kind of advertising tags are right up there with "The E.R. episode ALL of America will be talking about...!" or, Starbucks red Christmas (sorry, holiday) cups, or 'limited edition' bacon burgers from any fast food joint. Make us think we need it! Make us think we need it!

But don't think we are totally ignorant.

While I do not doubt that "Memoirs..." will be well done and well received because the book was so popular (does that make me sound like I've read it? Because I haven't..) not to mention that leads Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang are stellar actresses, it is going to be odd to see (totally Chinese) Ziyi playing a chick named "Sayuri" (totally Japanese).

Call me a crazy gaijin, but I imagine, at least initially, having a hard time watching non-Japanese geishas on screen. Or should I say non-Japanese women playing geishas. "Get over it, open your mind!" you may be thinking. I would if I could cast away the thought that by selecting non-Japanese leads the director may inadvertently pander to some peoples' view that 'oh all Asians look the same'.


Maybe the casting is a we-are-the-world attempt to mitigate current Sino-Japanese relations? Or perhaps more focused on the potential box office draw, where exec producers just said "Get big Asian names to rope 'em in!" and well, Yeoh and Ziyi are big, so...maybe there you go.

Maybe it's like French super actress Sophie Marceu being passed over for Audrey Too-Too for the role of the French inspectress in "The Da Vinci Code". Sophie is the perfect age and has that je ne sais quoi sexysmart look for the role. En fait, as soon as I read the book I thought "Insert Sophie here if they make a film!". Auds is a talent, but desole', baby, too young and too cutesy to be kicking rear in internationally mysterious capers. She does have that whole "Amelie" thing going for her, though. Come to think of it, I also think Tom Hanks is just too overexposed and boring for the lead in "Code", but Ron Howard missed my phone call about that one.

So back to the geisha girls: are there non-Japanese geishas in real life?

Uh oh, just what I need, another hobby inquiry which might best be explored with a solid research question supported by empirical data.

Must get back to actual research questions I am supposedly working on. That is, after I complete my piles of end-of-semester grading madness. Yeah, that's the ticket. Anyway, it's not like I have time to go to the cinema at the moment, but I just thought I'd rant a tad. Oh wait, this particluar film isn't even out yet. Hope I haven't influenced how you're going to view it, that'd be freaky-deaky.

OK, as you were....


At 08 Dezember, 2005 16:04, Anonymous Anonym said...

the japs r upset about chinese actresses in geisha.
i dont think most americans care.
i just hope the movie is done well. havent read the book yet either.

At 08 Dezember, 2005 18:13, Blogger Lisaopolis said...

Did you SERIOUSLY use that word on my blog?

Don't come back.

At 09 Dezember, 2005 10:26, Anonymous said...

Go, Lisa- who puts out interesting questions and responds intelligently!

Guess it's also good when negative ways of thinking show themselves, so we, who can ignore them/ benefit from them, see that they are alive and going strong...

At 09 Dezember, 2005 10:36, Blogger Lisaopolis said...

Yes, at this age i don't see any point in NOT cutting to the chase. PC mavens be damned;) It's one thing to be respectful and polite, and another to be annoyingly wishywashy.

My latest fave is the 'holiday tree'. Whatthehellever. Call it a Christmas tree and be done with it. That's like a 'holiday menorah'. Celebrate Hannukah! Be proud! Merry Christmas!

At 09 Dezember, 2005 10:41, Blogger Lisaopolis said...

ooops, forgot to add to the above that: the only thing more disgraceful than one who flings derogatory terms for a population is a flinger who remains anonymous. Way to go! May your days be merry and bright!

At 10 Dezember, 2005 08:22, Anonymous Anonym said...

Hii Lisa...the director is pretty good, but I just heard on the tube here in NYC that it is not very good...too bad, Rob Marshall..he did a splendid job with Chicago. Hope you are warmm and toasty..lots of snow here...Cindy

At 11 Dezember, 2005 13:50, Anonymous Jon said...

Just watched the trailer--you are so right. The actresses' movements, expressions, and accents are, well, Chinese. Big disappointment, because the book is excellent. Maybe some day they can just pass out Babelfish or universal translators to the audience and then movies can be historically, culturally, and linguistically accurate.

And re: 'holiday tree', if we're really going to be historically accurate, it should be 'yule tree' or 'druid tree'...

At 12 Dezember, 2005 03:54, Anonymous Anonym said...

don't be so easily offended.
i just watched some bugs bunny cartoons that are very politically incorrect. its interesting how society has changed over the years. nazi reign was not that long ago... talk about scary times...

At 12 Dezember, 2005 13:53, Blogger Gina Grace said...

Ignoring all of the above comments and wanted to leave my own:

Gina says: Don't be such a xenophobe, its called ACTING! (said the way that Jon Lovitz used to say it)

I would make the assumption that they picked those actresses because they have the right combination of Big Name and Acting Skill. If there were an equivalent Japanese counterpart, I'm sure she'd be in the lead.

As for DaVinci Code, I kind of agree with you, but I'll give too-too a chance. remember: she too gets older every year, so maybe she'll fit the part better now than she would have when she made Amelie. Tom Hanks will be able to pull it off, but I pictured more of a harrison Ford when I was reading the book. But I suppose the role would be a bit too typecast for him these days.

At 13 Dezember, 2005 12:28, Blogger stefanierj said...

There's an interesting website that might tie into this discussion--one that all my Korean, Japanese and Chinese friends have been fascinated by--mostly because it drives them crazy. It's called and it was started by a Japanese guy whose (anglo) girlfriend is really good and picking out which country an Asian person hails from. There's even a test so you can rate your own ability. Anyway, it's interesting (and don't worry, not racist) and adds a little interesting spin on the topic.

At 13 Dezember, 2005 13:56, Blogger Lisaopolis said...

Thanks for the website tip, it is Most Interesting! And apparently after doing its tests, I ''...may have a talent".

At 15 Dezember, 2005 08:58, Blogger Kat said...

I WUV Audrey! How dare you suggest someone else? Just kidding! I ADORE Sophie Marceau. Can you tell I have had my coffee this AM? Hyperbole anyone??


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