Insult2Injury - Abominations of A Geisha

It's a severe case of "64 colours and there nothing on..."

Compounding the lack of my amp and the 42"plasma's DVD-audio-input incompatibility the screen has gone all wonky. All the colours have disappeared into this 6-bit abomination. The Elvis movies are EVEN MORE totally unwatchable.


(Bows head and sobs...)


The magnanimity of some people knows no bounds. In order to cheer him up from all these soul-destroying A-V insults, MM and Smoot invited E@L around to their new, palatial and supremely well-hidden-from-taxi-drivers place to watch one of his DVDs on their large(ish) projection screen: the "poor man's plasma" MM calls it.

The only condition was that the DVD had to be Memoirs of a Geisha. Fair enough.

The movie image quality was about 80%, not a shaky handicam, but not the proper digital version either. Maybe it was handicam on a solid tripod, though there were none of the automatic aperture flares you get from cheap handicams when the screen-image is predominantly white. Maybe it was an MP4 version upscaled. Who knows? Only the triads on Penang in Malaysia that put it together I guess.

The bottom 10% of the screen seemed to be missing, as some warning about non-distribution(!) was half-concealed, but this didn't detract from our 'enjoyment' of the flick. It was bit pixelly in some details, and had a general sort of washed out colour. But more betterer than E@L's VGA-like 64 colours, and the sound was reasonably good if a bit soft in the quiet dialogue moments - but that a feature of the wide-dynamic range of DVDs.

OK. Cut to the chase. The movie itself...

Well E@L hasn't read the book AS SUCH (though he owns a copy - he tried to give it away for Xmas but they already had their own) and he thought the movie was going to be more of a documentary on how to become a geisha - you know the drill: ikebana, shamisen, mai, origami, bukkake, etc...

Turns out it was a formulaic rivalry story between the upcoming Geisha heroine Sayuri (Zhang Ziyi, who is not all that hot really, E@L reckons - once again in taste opposition to Smoot, who can't tell a cat from a dog by the way) and the evil-personified bitch ("She reminds me of the X," says MM) of an established Geisha, the inexplicably insecure and strangely threatened Hatsumomo (Gong Li, who IS majorly cute. She can cane my butt anytime...).

If it sounds like the essence of Standard Hollywood Plot-line Number 23(b), well, that's because that is exactly what it is.

Apart from the predictability, as other have pointed in various reviews, the mixed Angloid (like English, only different) accents of everyone were an atrocious distraction. The worst was the woman who played the Okami, or boss of the house. She couldn't get her lips around any English words at all. Even when she took that ridiculous Fu Manchu pipe/cigarette holder out of her mouth... Of course it didn't help than none of the cast spoke English as a first language and as far as their general credibility in the movie is concerned, it was further woefully lowered by the fact the main female cast weren't even Japanese.

One major snapping of the disbelief suspenders... the 'enchanting' 'dance' of Sayuri at the Geisha Olympics or whatever that scene was, man, it was like totally risible. ["Is this the freeform component?" asks MM. He can be a very funny guy when not upsetting the editors.] This post-modern interpretation of .. what? ... must have been the baleful influence of choreographer turned director Rob Marshall (director of Chicago - another movie E@L couldn't be bothered watching). As if a real Geisha would fling herself around like an electrocuted Nijinsky on an bad acid-trip...

Surely the essence of Geisha is UNDERSTATEMENT and RESERVE. They are performance artiste's of dignified subservience. The perfect Geisha would show PERFECT understatement and reserve. Asian Mystique indeed.

And if Michelle Yeoh is the world's greatest Geisha, well then E@L is a champion Olympic swimmer. She clumps and jumps around gracelessly like the Malaysian old aunty that of course she is. Her hair is all wrong for another thing. She was so much better (as was Zhong Ziyi) in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Underpants.

As a choreographer, you'd expect Director Marshall to have given the actresses better advice about maintaining their Geisha-like sense of delicate movement and graceful body control. It was odd. When the plot WAS emphasizing their grace, like flashing a wrist to pour the green tea, they worked reasonably well at it, but when they were just moving around from A > B, and it was the dialogue or action that was the centrepiece of the movie's attention, their concern for grace and charm went out the window. An damning internal inconsistency there.

And I spotted one blatant Continuity Error - the house is on fire; standing in the doorway, Hatsumomo throws down the threatening letter-opener in disgust/frustration. Change camera angle to show the okami coming in all distraught as the room is in flames... Hatsumomo moving aside form the doorway to her left, throws down the threatening letter-opener in disgust/frustration -- AGAIN!

Result? Quite disappointing overall. image

However, if you liked the movie or the book, and want to get another perspective on Geisha-dom you might want to experience the best Geisha story ever written (i.e. of those that I have read, not that many) and one from a truly Japanese perspective - try that miniaturist perfection piece of understated, inferential non-action that characterizes the best Japanese style, Snow Country by Yasanuri Kawabata.

BTW. There are no car chases in Japanese stories. The movie had at least that one thing going for it.



Posted by: expat@large on Jan 30, 06 | 2:22 pm | Profile


betterer than E@Lís VGA-like 64 colours

Perhaps there's a dither option? You'd get that cool 1992 256 colour look.

Posted by: Tom on Jan 31, 06 | 4:50 am

And yes, I'm making fun because it'll be 10 years before I see like a plsama TeeVee. Heck I'm viewing this on a 6 year-old off-brand 17 inch monitor that's on it's death-bed.

Posted by: Tom on Jan 31, 06 | 4:52 am

I'd kill for 256 colours!

Let's swap!

My plasma is looking like a neonatal demise... Maybe some inborn error of metabolism that kills you after 5 days despite being healthy at birth as your mother's liver had been processing the stuff for you...


Posted by: expat@large on Jan 31, 06 | 12:19 pm

Thank you for coming to the house! We hope you enjoyed the show as much as we did!

Posted by: MercerMachine on Jan 31, 06 | 9:17 pm

So M sez to me, after I typed the earlier comment and posted it from his computer, you know he'll think that came from me, right? Yes, I said. I not stupid.

Posted by: Smootie on Feb 01, 06 | 9:31 am

He was very polite I thought. And yes I had a very enjoyable time thanks, even though the movie was rather insipid. Hey, the roof-top garden will be terrific when you get some shady plants and umbrellas and stuff going.

Posted by: expat@large on Feb 01, 06 | 10:18 am


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