Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Memoirs of a Showgir-- I mean, Geisha

In this week's Village Voice, Dennis Lim reviews Rob Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha. And man, it isn't pretty...

...But it is really, really funny.

Some favorite quotes:

"The movie version of Golden's bestseller, from the director of Chicago, comes up with a new angle: In this garish pageant of dragon-lady vamping and drag-queen catfights, the geisha experience is roughly akin to working the bar at Lucky Cheng's."

"Swaddled in the posh vulgarity that passes for awards-season elegance, Memoirs is deluxe orientalist kitsch, a would-be cross between Showgirls and Raise the Red Lantern, too dumb to cause offense though falling short of the oblivious abandon that could have vaulted it into high camp."

"Rob Marshall's movie is something of a lip-synch disaster: Chinese actresses play Japanese geisha (in a period concurrent with the Sino-Japanese war) and speak English the way Hollywood has always imagined Asians do, all stilted syntax and awkward enunciations ("You are! To become! Geisha!")."

"Sold into an okiya in childhood, mysteriously blue-eyed Sayuri (Ziyi Zhang), often shot through bars and slats in case we fail to grasp her caged condition, longs to escape servitude—to become! geisha!—which she does under the tutelage of the kindly Mameha (Michelle Yeoh)..."

"And in the scheme of this movie, which dispenses with pesky World War II in one or two sonorous voiceover lines, what Sayuri wants, Sayuri gets."

"With Marshall preoccupied picking out fabrics and lacquer veneers, the task of directing the actors seems to have fallen to the beleaguered dialect coach. To complement the clashing accents, Memoirs is a free-for-all of wildly divergent acting styles. Zhang's phonetic struggles are the most (mis)pronounced, but she throws herself heartily into the film's hilariously anachronistic big number, a splashy expressionist routine on platform clogs that would have cleaned up on So You Think You Can Dance?"

"Clad in chinchilla-fringed outfits and hurling sidelong death glares, Gong's viperous Hatsumomo wipes the floor with Zhang's cowering Sayuri: "I shall destroy you!" she hisses in the most Showgirls-like scene."

He compares it, twice, to Showgirls. 'Nuff said.