Memoirs of a Geisha Rob Marshall

I don’t feel qualified to wade into the controversy involving this film’s Chinese actors playing Japanese roles; I do feel qualified to say that whatever country you’re from, this Asian cultural cheese ball is pretty much a washout. Zhang Ziyi assays the title role from Arthur Golden’s smash bestseller of a girl who was pried from her family and forced to face a future as a dazzling handmaiden to Japanese men. She resists her fate initially, but soon she has to resign herself to learning the ways of how to walk, talk and dress in a manner befitting the life that chose her. But of course, she yearns for the attentions of the Chairman (Ken Watanabe), who was nice to her at the age of eight (!) and thus is deserving of her undying love. But the plot is almost irrelevant to the ridiculous heavy breathing about the "mysterious” ways of the geisha and the colourful purple-prose cinematography, all of which reduces Japan to a puzzle to be solved by us westerners instead of letting it define itself. Aside from inducing Edward Said to spin in his grave, this overlooks Japanese films by Mizoguchi and Naruse that are all about debunking the mythic image of the geisha; by contrast, this movie tries to open the closed doors so as to render the contents all the more dazzling. The more they try to be "authentic,” the more like a Tiki bar the proceedings become, until you’re just waiting for the parade of vacuously beautiful imagery to end. Extras include a commentary by Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca that sadly illustrates all of the above, a second commentary by the production designer, costume designer and editor that’s far more in-depth, 11 featurettes that cover the production. soup to nuts, and some galleries. (Sony)