送交者: xj 于 2006-1-12, 16:07:21:
回答: The Memoirs of Geisha 由 xj 于 2006-1-12, 15:22:47:
Geisha is not a courtesan, neither is an artist. Probably most Japanese people will hit me hard for the last half of the statement, but I am adamant to that, for I believe Geisha is mere an entertainer. You certainly won’t call an entertainer artist, just as you won’t call Zhang Ziyi the charming bitch artist.
The movie, the Memoirs of Geisha, was adapted from the novel. Although the movie is a little bit unsatisfying, the book itself is a good reading. Remind you, this memoir is a fiction, made up of “a million little pieces”—yeah, I know the “million pieces” book By Mr. Frey is faked. Interestingly, the main character in the Geisha book looks real and is indeed based on a real Geisha who bears the same name as “Sayuri.” A side note, there is a lawsuit filed by Sayuri against the author Arthur Golden.
Ok, so much for the anecdotes. Let’s first talk about the novel, and later on we have some fun again with the movie.
The story of Geisha Sayuri unfolded in a remote fishing village in 1920s. A little girl named Chiyo was living peacefully if not happily with her silly sister, her old father and diseased mother. As in the case of most poor families, Chiyo and her sister Satsu were sold by their parents, Chiyo to an Okiya in Kyoto to become a Geisha, and Satsu to a brothel to be a young prostitute. Satsu late escaped from the brothel and remained unknown since then.
For Chiyo, life in the Okiya was never easy. In the very first day, she learned that Hatsumomo, the only geisha in the Okiya, was formidable. Simultaneously, Hatsumomo realized that Chiyo would become a successful geisha one day, thus imminently threatening her dominance in this Okiya. In fact, anybody who saw Chiyo would believe she was a famous-geisha-in-training, for she had a charming smile and a pair of mysterious grey eyes. That is, she was a woman of water. I know that “water” here is derived from the five essences of the material world in traditional Chinese philosophy. but I prefer to interpret “water” as both “easily being changed like water, emotional”, and as “hidden sexy” just like what you feel when you take a warm bath—a mild sensual touch with the smooth water.
In the beginning, Chiyo didn’t know that Hatsumomo determined to end her dream by all means. All she knew was that she was hated by Hatsumomo. After she caught Hatsumomo having sex with a man, Hatsumomo falsely accused her for stealing her expensive comb. She also set up a trap for Chiyo so that Chiyo had to pay all the damage of an expensive kimono. During an attempt to flee from the Okiya, Chiyo broke her arm and abruptly ended her Geisha training.
Chiyo was now a full time slave, and would remain so had she not meet the Chairman, the owner of Iwamura Electronic. Probably attracted by her grey eyes and watery characteristics, the Chairman gave her a quarter to buy some ice cream and a handkerchief for memory. His encouragement also rekindled Chiyo’s hope. A few weeks later, the greatest geisha Mameha visited Chiyo’s Okiya and told the mother that she was willing to adopt Chiyo as her young sister. Mameha and the mother reached a deal and Chiyo was back to geisha school.
Chiyo worked very hard, and Mameha was a very good sister. Within two years, Chiyo was ready to show off.
Now Chiyo was renamed as Sayuri. Sayuri was an apprentice of Mameha. For a burgeoning geisha like her, the first thing was to know as many people as she could, and to find an “eel” for her unexplored “cave”. Selling virginity was an important step to become a full blown geisha. Mameha arranged a bidding fight between Nobu, an ugly and rude businessman, CEO of Iwamura Electronic, and Dr. Crab, a sex wolf who had collected tens of geishas’ virgin blood including Mameha’s. Later on, the fight was joined by the baron, another woman seeker who almost raped Sayuri during her visit to his family estate. Nevertheless, Sayuri’s virginity was sold record high to Dr. Crab. The whole thing may seem disgusting, but for a high class female entertainer, virginity is a precious thing to sell. Lots of men like the taste of blood seeping from the rupturing hymen. Ironically, it is a big business now in China to fake the virginity by mending the hymen. Nothing can deter the creativity of business people.
For a geisha, as suggested in the book, three things are important: training, selling virginity, and finding a danna, a long term patron. We’ve talked about the first two, and the last one is surely the most important one.
Finding danna is again to sell herself, not like a prostitute where she just lies down and bears it, but as an unofficial concubine where she has to entertain the master to satisfy him sexually, emotionally, and intellectually.
Sayuri had a good candidate—Nobu. Nobu had spent lots of time with her, or, in his own words, had “changed his lifestyle” to accommodate her. But because of his disfigured face, Sayuri couldn’t find any desire to accomondate her cave for his eel. Furthermore, because Japan was in the war, she had to find a danna who could protect her and her Okiya in this hard time. So she sold herself to a crabby dull general. Understandably, the sex with the general was more like an obligation rather than a joy. She derailed and passionately had a one night stand with a poor young man, which is forgivable.
It turned out that the general was far from dullness. He was a loser. He couldn’t protect Sayuri when the Geisha business was disbanded. Fortunately, the Chairman appeared and saved her. She started to work as a textile worker.
After the war, Nobu found Sayuri and persuaded her to return to the Geisha business. He proposed to her using a rock, a remainder of his ruined company, by promising the dannaship he would offer if his company recovered. The game was simple. Sayuri would entertain the depute finance minister so that his company could be reclassified as a non-war company. She succeeded, and time had come that Sayuri should have intimate dannaship with Nobu.
In a retreat in a resort island, Sayuri thought a lot. The only person she cared about and secretly loved was the chairman who encouraged her from time to time, and was always kind to her. She decided to follow her feelings. She gave herself to the tasteless minister and asked her old friend Pumpkin to lead Nobu to discover their affair. Unexpectedly, Pumpkin came with the Chairman. The wild copulating scene froze with a complete disappointment.
Theatrically, a few weeks later, Sayuri was called upon to a teahouse to meet an important man. Who was he? Sayuri wondered along the way to the teahouse. It was the Chairman! He explained that it was he who arranged Mameha as her big sister. It was Nobu’s fervent love to her that deterred him from expressing his own profound love to her. Only after seeing the incident in that island did he realize that she didn’t love Nobu and he should do something to show he was still in love with her. So he came, and loved her forever and never.
I didn’t forget to mention the fate of Hatsumomo. Sure, she was very jealous about Sayuri’s success. She took any conceivable way to defame Sayuri. But all her ill attempts ended up her being expelled from the Okiya. It was said she was working as a prostitute ever since.
The novel is very well written and balanced up to the war. All the misfortune Sayuri suffered, and the bidding and danger of being raped before bidding are captivating and breathtaking. However, the process of finding a danna sounds surreal. But I don’t know much about Japanese men. So the story might have some elements of truth.
Now back to the movie which is more interesting than recounting the story. The movie follows the novel pretty closely. Three major female characters are all Chinese (native or not). Gong Li casts Hatsumomo, Ziyi Zhang as Sayuri, and Micheal Yeoh as Mameha. Most debates are about these women.
I never like Gong Li. First, she is ugly. I cannot think of anybody I know will like her flat face, protruding cheekbones, and ever hatred eyes (her breasts are uncharacteristically big, so is said). Well, some people may be able to see through her ugly body to find hidden sexy, and so, sexually arousing. But it is not me.
Second, in her handful movies I saw, she always looked like a sexually unsatisfying woman deemed to destroy the family, the village, and the whole society. Her face always looked plain and motionless. The smile in her face is worse than her cry.
Third, well, Gong Li is just not the type of woman I like.
Zhang Ziyi is also discovered by the stupidest, shameless, and most tasteless director Zhang Yimou. She is supposed to replace Gong Li after Gong left Zhang, both from his movie crew and from his bed. The Geisha movie is the first Zhang’s movie I saw. I didn’t like her instantly even though she has a smaller face than Gong Li does.
In the movie, Zhang’s face is also mostly motionless, and her smile looks unnatural. Probably she pretends to be an innocent little bitch, but she gives me an impression that she was nervous during shotting. For one thing, her English is terrible.
Speak of English, the little girl who casts Chiyo speaks English the best. The other Japanese actors speak English pretty well too. Among three actresses, Michael Yeoh’s English is the best. Gong Li’s English is also clear and comprehensible. But for Zhang Ziyi, Oh my gosh, I can barely understand half of what she says in the movie. In the movie, Zhang is like reciting a textbook, monotonically and blurrily. She speaks like having something in her mouth, “I woroould likerr troo havver sexer writhr yrour.” Apparently, the style of overstressing “r” suggests that she has learned American English in China.
Anyway, teasing her English is unkind, particularly since my English has a quite interesting Chinese accent too. I also beg your forgiveness for any insulting words I’ve said and will say about your beloved bitches.
By the way, I didn’t see Zhang’s naked body clearly except that she looks slim but fleshy. Her butt has a pretty nice curve considering she is not fat. I guess she may be a good bed companion.
Back to the movie. I have to say, overall it is pretty good. The story was adapted carefully, the settings seemed real, and the photographing was agreeable. They revamped the danna part of the story by playing down the irrelevant general, minister, and even Nobu. But if you haven’t read the novel, some scenes may seem disconnected.
The Gion district in Kyoto where Geisha lived looks crowd and shabby. I think maybe they were better decorated in old days. Now they look like a red district. But the photographing compensates it a little bit.
The thing that troubles me a lot is the cloth and costume used in the movie. They can’t be true. The kimonos seem quite cheap and colorless. I was once skeptical about the texture of these kimonos. They don’t look like silk to me. In addition, the way the “geisha” wearing kimonos is too casual. In my vision, the cloth should come with tons of elaborations. Even worse, the young “geisha” in the movie don’t wear white powder on their face. The geisha’s sophisticated costume has been degraded to common Hollywood facial decorations in which bright flesh and sexy lips are all that matter.
The last thing I want to say about the movie is about politics. I know many people are very angry about Chinese actresses being laid under Japanese actors. I think this is ridiculous. They are entertainers; there is nothing about patriotism or whatever. It is a business, a business about bitches and butches entertaining the mindless dumb. Period.
This reminds me a joke (but real). In 1930s when Japan occupied Shanghai, some Chinese people paid a large amount of money in order to intercourse with Japanese military prostitutes. They dubbed it as “fighting against Japan in bed.” It is the same ridiculous thing to expect some shameless entertainer to be patriots (yes, there are quite a few admirable entertainers who do love the country, but Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi probably don’t belong to them).
The final suggestion? I would recommend the book but not the movie.