On the Big Board
|The best looking film of the year occasionally lags but tells a marvelous story on the whole.
|It was a gorgeous film, but missing that something that the book had.
The world is getting much, much smaller. In the past couple of years, North Americans have opened themselves up to Asian cultures more than ever before. For proof of this fact, we need look no further than the fact that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon became the highest-grossing foreign language film ever (until The Passion of the Christ smashed the record), but other crossover has taken place as well. Even as Japanese anime becomes mainstream, the creators of new stateside cartoons carefully emulate that style themselves.
Additionally, 2003 saw three films that drew heavily on Japanese culture in particular have a strong influence on movie-goers. The highest grossing of these was The Last Samurai, which was a rather fictionalized version of events that occurred historically, but still dug deep into a fascination with the warriors who defended their country's honor. Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1 combined elements of old samurai films, chop-socky flicks like the Baby Cart series, anime, and a yakuza gangster element in his elaborate revenge tale. And finally, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson were two lost souls in a modern-day Japan with popular video game parlors, karaoke, and the incongruity of the ancient temple.
Now Miramax will continue this trend with Memoirs of a Geisha, a movie based on the wonderful novel by Arthur Golden. That book followed the life of a woman named Chiyo Sayuri, who was sold to a geisha house at the age of nine. We see the story progress through her eyes as Chiyo blossoms into a beautiful young geisha and falls in love with the president of the Iwamura electric company, but sadly, geisha are not allowed to marry or have boyfriends unless the men buy them. So we see her expansive life experiences as she comes of age, from having her virginity bought to living through wartime to finally becoming truly independent. It’s an epic tale that is nearly tailor-made for a motion picture adaptation.
After rumors flew about numerous potential directors, including Steven Spielberg, Spike Jonze and Kimberley Peirce, Miramax has finally settled on Rob Marshall, whose Academy Award winning Chicago proved his mettle in the theatrical world. Production will take place in Japan, which will lend the film an authenticity that will almost be necessary if it is to succeed.
Since the book has been quite popular since its publication in 1997, it will have a built-in fan base that will be looking forward to seeing Chiyo onscreen. Miramax will almost certainly push it as Oscar bait, and given the potential lush cinematography and acting opportunities, should be a very high profile release indeed. (Kim Hollis/BOP)