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"MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA"
(2005) (Ziyi Zhang, Michelle Yeoh) (PG-13)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Heavy Mild Extreme Moderate Mild
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None Moderate None Mild
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Heavy Heavy Heavy Moderate Moderate


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A young Japanese woman learns the ways of becoming a geisha as she longs for a dashing businessman, all as WWII looms on the horizon.
PLOT:
It's 1929 and young Japanese sisters Chiyo (SUZUKA OHGO) and Satsu (SAMANTHA FUTERMAN) are sold by their poor father in the middle of the night to a stranger. They eventually end up at the Kyoto geisha house run by Mother (KAORI MOMOI), but only Chiyo is selected to stay, thus separating the siblings. Roomed with another young girl, Chiyo must quickly learn the ways of the house and of becoming a geisha. Despite seeing that the house's best wage earner Hatsumomo (GONG LI) has a secret boyfriend on the side, Chiyo is informed that no geisha can have free love.

But the young girl's chances of becoming one seem dashed forever when a drunken Hatsumomo -- who dislikes the child -- gets her to deface a kimono, thus resulting in Chiyo forfeiting her future. The only bright spot in her life is a brief encounter with The Chairman (KEN WATANABE), a dashing and successful businessman who's the only person to show Chiyo some kindness and compassion.

Years later, Chiyo (ZIYI ZHANG) is now a teen and her roommate Pumpkin (YOUKI KUDOH) is being groomed to have Mother choose her as the house's lead geisha. But that's when Hatsumomo's rival, Mameha (MICHELLE YEOH), steps in and offers to take Chiyo under her wing and serve as her geisha mentor. Chiyo, now renamed Sayuri, then goes through a crash course of learning everything there is to know about being such an entertainer. Considered a beauty by all, her virginity then becomes a big selling point, with Mameha trying to attract big spenders, such as war veteran and successful businessman Nobu (KOJI YAKUSHO) to bid for the right to deflower her.

Yet, Sayuri's heart remains fixed on The Chairman, a close friend to Nobu. As Mameha and Hatsumomo jockey their protégés into Mother's line of sight and good favors, Sayuri tries to become the best geisha that she can, all as WWII changes them and their country.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Those interested in Japanese culture (geishas, 1930s and 1940s era living, etc.) or who are fans of anyone in the cast might be interested in it, but beyond that, older teens seem the most likely audience among kids.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG-13
For mature subject matter and some sexual content.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • ZIYI ZHANG plays the alluring and beautiful young woman who Mameha chooses as her geisha protégé. As part of her position and by tradition, she loses her virginity to a wealthy bidder and has sex with another man, but has her heart set on The Chairman, all while dealing with Hatsumomo and that geisha's attempts to undermine her.
  • SUZUKA OHGO plays her at a younger age, a preteen who's sold by her father to the geisha house, and must contend with that, being separated from her sister, and the way Hatsumomo treats her.
  • KEN WATANABE plays a successful businessman who treats young Chiyo with kindness and then finds her alluring when she becomes a geisha. He smokes and drinks a few times.
  • MICHELLE YEOH plays a geisha who serves as Sayuri's mentor and trains her in the ways of becoming a geisha, all while trying to earn the most for the deflowering of Sayuri and constantly needing to ward off Hatsumomo's attempts to sabotage them.
  • GONG LI plays the house's most successful geisha who instantly dislikes young Chiyo and then sees her as a threat and rival in later years. Breaking the rules, she has a secret boyfriend (with whom she has sex), while later serving as Pumpkin's mentor in an attempt to stymie Sayuri's rise to geisha fame. She's drunk in one scene.
  • KOJI YAKUSHO plays The Chairman's business associate, a war veteran who runs an electric company and finds himself interested in Sayuri.
  • YOUKI KUDOH plays Sayuri's former childhood roommate who becomes a geisha before her and turns into something of wild woman who smokes, drinks and apparently has various trysts.
  • KAORI MOMOI plays the older woman who runs the geisha house with an iron fist and smokes.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this PG-13 rated drama. A few non-explicit euphemisms are used for genitals and the sex act, while other sexually related dialogue is present and several sexual encounters are partially seen (with men on top of women, partial nudity, etc.), one stemming from a geisha's efforts to get the highest bids regarding her protégé being deflowered. Other sexually related material and nonsexual, partial nudity (but nothing explicit, such as sumo wrestlers in traditional attire) is also present.

    Various characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes, while two young sisters are sold by their father to a stranger and are then separated from each other. Some characters hit or struggle with others, while a fire breaks out in the geisha house. Some of those scenes may be unsettling or suspenseful for some viewers. Various characters smoke and/or drink, with some being intoxicated, while thematic elements include the objectification of women for men's pleasure, the selling of children and WWII.

    If you're still concerned about the film and its appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who may be interested in seeing it, we suggest that you take a closer look at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.

    For those concerned with bright flashes of light on the screen, the flicker from a fire cause some of that.

    For those prone to visually induced motion sickness, there's some bouncy camerawork in various scenes throughout the film.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Young Pumpkin says that if they're chosen to be geishas, they'll drink sake and sleep until noon.
  • Hatsumomo and another geisha are drunk, with the second woman having a beer.
  • Miscellaneous characters drink.
  • We see liquor on a tray and miscellaneous people are then seen drinking.
  • The Chairman, Nobu and others drink.
  • The Chairman has a drink.
  • Miscellaneous people drink at an estate party.
  • Miscellaneous people drink.
  • Pumpkin drinks.
  • Pumpkin holds a bottle of whiskey and wonders who wants some.
  • Various characters drink in a large hot spring and Pumpkin acts a bit intoxicated.
  • Various people have drinks.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • After falling from the roof, we see Chiyo with a bandage on her face and bloody scrapes and/or dirt on her.
  • Nobu has various severe scars on one side of his face from being in the military.
  • Mameha wants Sayuri to cut her leg so that she'll go see a doctor who might bid to be the one to deflower Sayuri. We don't see the actual cutting, but do see her at the doctor's office where a little blood is on her leg and the bandage over the cut (but nothing too bad).
  • Nobu is mad at Sayuri, thinking she's setting up a tryst. Accordingly, he slams down his glass, cutting his hand (we see blood on it and a cloth).
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • The girls' father sells them to another man, while Mother and others separate the two and then planning on using Chiyo as a servant and then geisha.
  • Hatsumomo doesn't like Chiyo, even when the latter is a child, complaining that she still smells like fish and doesn't want her in her room.
  • While intoxicated, Hatsumomo has young Chiyo deface a kimono.
  • Hatsumomo pushes teenage Pumpkin to the floor by her face.
  • After Mameha takes in Sayuri, Hatsumomo tells Pumpkin that she and Sayuri are now rivals and sets out to undermine their previous friendship.
  • Hatsumomo continues to have a bad attitude toward Sayuri.
  • Pumpkin tells Sayuri that Hatsumomo lied about the latter to a doctor (who Mameha is trying to get to bid to deflower her), saying that Sayuri has been bringing many men back to her room.
  • A baron takes Sayuri into a private room where he starts undressing and kissing on her and has his hand on her clothed chest. We then see her bare back in a mirror reflection and then the real thing, with her then grabbing material to cover her chest (she's not comfortable with what's occurring and it's somewhat implied that he has his way with her, but we later learn that's not the case).
  • Hatsumomo grabs the handkerchief that The Chairman long ago gave Sayuri and threatens to burn it. She and Sayuri then struggle over it and then over a knife (or similar sharp object), with some hitting occurring and an accidental fire starting. As Sayuri tries to put it out, Hatsumomo goes out into the hallway and purposefully throws more lit lanterns to the floor where they break and cause additional fires.
  • Sayuri invites an American colonel to meet her for sex, wanting Pumpkin to bring Nobu there to see that happening, so that he'll leave her alone, but Pumpkin brings The Chairman to see the act, rather than Nobu.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Young Chiyo and her sister are sold by their father to another person, and the young girls are upset as they're taken away from their home at night in the rain. They're then transferred to another person and then put on a train, eventually delivered to Mother.
  • Chiyo tries to escape from the geisha house by climbing out onto the steeply pitched roof at night. She ends up barefoot and then slides down the roof with her feet hitting the gutter that stops her slide. She then ends up falling off and while we don't see her impact with the ground or street below, we do see her with a bandage on her face and bloody scrapes and/or dirt on her.
  • Mameha wants Sayuri to cut her leg so that she'll go see a doctor who might bid to be the one to deflower Sayuri. We don't see the actual cutting, but do see her at the doctor's office where a little blood is on her leg and the bandage over the cut (but nothing too bad).
  • A baron takes Sayuri into a private room where he starts undressing and kissing on her and has his hand on her clothed chest. We then see her bare back in a mirror reflection and then the real thing, with her then grabbing material to cover her chest (she's not comfortable with what's occurring and it's somewhat implied that he has his way with her, but we later learn that's not the case).
  • Hatsumomo grabs the handkerchief that The Chairman long ago gave Sayuri and threatens to burn it. She and Sayuri then struggle over it and then over a knife (or similar sharp object), with some hitting occurring and an accidental fire starting. As Sayuri tries to put it out, Hatsumomo goes out into the hallway and purposefully throws more lit lanterns to the floor where they break and cause additional fires.
  • As the military invades the town, everyone tries to flee.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • We see war planes while soldiers carry rifles.
  • American soldiers are in town following the war and some carry rifles.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Shut up," "Whore," "Have you gone mad?" "They're bastards" and "Don't worry about me, chickadee."
  • It's possible that the film could inspire some younger girls to try to dress up and behave like geishas.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A moderate amount of suspenseful and dramatic music plays in the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 2 slang terms for female genitals ("cave") and 1 for male genitals ("eel"), used as euphemisms, and 1 use of "My God."
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • We see young Chiyo being bathed and we see her bare back, but nothing else.
  • A girl tattles that Hatsumomo was with a man all night in her room.
  • Chiyo sees a man kissing on a young woman on the street (from a distance).
  • Hatsumomo and another geisha are drunk, with the second woman saying she knows what Hatsumomo desires -- a certain guy.
  • Hatsumomo tells Chiyo that the latter's sister is in what sounded like "the pleasure district."
  • Young Chiyo hears sexual sounds coming from Hatsumomo's room and then sees partial views of a man on top of Hatsumomo (we see part of his bare back), but they stop when they spot her. They then passionately kiss as he leaves.
  • After Chiyo sees Hatsumomo having sex with her secret boyfriend, Hatsumomo lies about Chiyo's behavior, causing an older woman to whack young Chiyo. They then grab Hatsumomo, with one older lady putting her hand to Hatsumomo's crotch (we don't see the contact) and then holding her hand up in the rain (presumably with semen on it, but the rain obscures any certain view of that). That woman then slaps Hatsumomo on the face.
  • While training Sayuri to be a geisha, Mameha tells her that they're not courtesans, and that they sell their skills and not their bodies to their clients.
  • In a bathhouse, we see various women's bare backs (including one down to just the very top of her bare butt while seated), as well as Mameha and Sayuri in towels, but nothing too explicit.
  • We see part of some Sumo wrestler's bare butts in their traditional garb.
  • Mameha talks to Sayuri about sex, using euphemisms about the "eel" and "cave" and that men like to visit the "cave."
  • We learn that Mameha is trying to build up Sayuri's virginal status to make her the recipient of the highest bids by prominent men to deflower her (all to help the geisha business, with Mameha holding the previous record for such a high bid).
  • Pumpkin tells Sayuri that Hatsumomo lied about the latter to a doctor (who Mameha is trying to get to bid to deflower her), saying that Sayuri has been bringing many men back to her room.
  • Sayuri is told that she's the object of the men's fantasies.
  • Sayuri tells Hatsumomo, "Not every geisha uses that kind of currency" (meaning sex to get someone to do something).
  • A baron takes Sayuri into a private room where he starts undressing and kissing on her and has his hand on her clothed chest. We then see her bare back in a mirror reflection and then the real thing, with her then grabbing material to cover her chest (she's not comfortable with what's occurring and it's somewhat implied that he has his way with her, but we later learn that's not the case).
  • Later, Mameha is upset about this, telling Sayuri that she's now worthless, with Sayuri saying the man only looked and Mameha replies that she'll be examined, adding who wants a plum when someone's already had a bite.
  • We see Sayuri in bed with the older man who won the bid to deflower her. As he starts to undress her as she lies there, the scene goes out of focus and then ends, so no nudity or other details are seen, but sex is implied.
  • Pumpkin shows some cleavage and states that she has more "clients" than she can handle (presumably meaning sexual).
  • Various male and female characters are in a large hot spring and it's somewhat implied that some are nude, but we don't see anything beyond bare shoulders and such. An American colonel comes on to Sayuri and has his hand on her bare shoulder.
  • Sayuri invites an American colonel to meet her for sex, wanting Pumpkin to bring Nobu there to see that happening, so that he'll leave her alone. Once there, the colonel gets impatient and asks "Are we doing this or not?" We then see him on top of her, kissing her, and see the top of her bare breasts, but Pumpkin brings The Chairman to see the act, rather than Nobu.
  • The Chairman and Sayuri passionately kiss while clothed.
  • Sayuri as the narrator comments on geishas being only half a wife and refers to them as the wives of nightfall.
  • SMOKING
  • Mother smokes at least 6 times, Pumpkin, Hatsumomo and The Chairman each smoke several times, Nobu smokes once and many minor and miscellaneous characters smoke in many scenes.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Young Chiyo and her sister are sold by their father to another person, and the young girls are upset as they're taken away from their home at night in the rain. They're then transferred to another person and then put on a train, eventually delivered to Mother.
  • There's talk of the girl's mother being sick.
  • The sisters are then separated when Mother only chooses Chiyo and not her sibling and the girls are very upset about this.
  • Chiyo is still worried about her sister and where she might be. She eventually finds her and they play to escape together, but Chiyo can't make their meeting and never sees her again.
  • Mother tells young Chiyo that her sister has run away and that she must forget she ever had one.
  • Young Chiyo gets a letter that her parents died.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Geishas and their role in Japanese culture and the objectification of women for men's pleasure.
  • How the girls' father sells them to someone else.
  • WWII.
  • Using Chinese actresses to play Japanese characters.
  • The comment that no geisha can have free love.
  • Nobu has various severe scars on one side of his face from being in combat.
  • We learn that Mameha is trying to build up Sayuri's virginal status to make her the recipient of the highest bids by prominent men to deflower her (all to help the geisha business, with Mameha holding the previous record for such a high bid).
  • VIOLENCE
  • An older woman throws water on young Chiyo and then hits her with some sort of rod twice (for earlier defacing a kimono on Hatsumomo's order). We then hear more such hitting as well as the girl squealing.
  • After Chiyo sees Hatsumomo having sex with her secret boyfriend, Hatsumomo lies about Chiyo's behavior, causing an older woman to whack young Chiyo. They then grab Hatsumomo, and one woman then slaps Hatsumomo on the face.
  • Chiyo falls off the roof while trying to escape, and while we don't see her impact with the ground or street below, we do see her with a bandage on her face and bloody scrapes and/or dirt on her.
  • Hatsumomo pushes teenage Pumpkin to the floor by her face.
  • A guy passing by on a bike crashes into a cart while distracted by Sayuri's beauty (he's not hurt).
  • Hatsumomo grabs Sayuri by her hair, smacks her and says, "I will destroy you."
  • Hatsumomo knocks stuff aside in anger and then overturns a table while still mad.
  • Hatsumomo grabs the handkerchief that The Chairman long ago gave Sayuri and threatens to burn it. She and Sayuri then struggle over it and then over a knife (or similar sharp object), with some hitting occurring and an accidental fire starting. As Sayuri tries to put it out, Hatsumomo goes out into the hallway and purposefully throws more lit lanterns to the floor where they break and cause additional fires.
  • Nobu is mad at Sayuri, thinking she's setting up a tryst. Accordingly, he slams down his glass, cutting his hand (we see blood on it and a cloth).



  • Reviewed November 28, 2005 / Posted December 16, 2005

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