What did Japanese movie reviewers think of "Memoirs of a Geisha"?

I saw this last night. Just curious about what the Japanese thought.

Doesn’t specifically say if the critics are japanese, but sounds to me like it’s implied. Link basically has Ken Watanabe defending chinese actress Zhang Ziyi against critics who say that a japanese character should be played by a japanese actress.


[Gross Stereotyping (but based on experience)]
I’ve tried finding reviews in Japanese a couple of times, but regardless of whether you go to Amazon, Yahoo Movies, or wherever there is very, very little.

Japan is a country where they automatically put a cover on every book you buy so that no one can possibly no what you are reading–because that’s what the customer wants. They don’t laugh or cheer during the movies, and they do stick through the entire credits even though they can’t read them. Going to the movies is a ritual, not a shared experience.

You would largely need to track down someone who had seen the movie and whap them on the head until they gave a real review if you wanted one.
[/Gross Stereotyping (but based on experience)]

But don’t they have newspaper reviewers…? How do the Japanese decide which movies to watch?

I know there have to be some critics in Japan, because I remember hearing that they were upset about their portrayal in “Pearl Harbor.”

On a somewhat unrelated note, I’ve also heard that “The Simpsons” was not a big success in Japan until they spun the ads to make the show seem more about Lisa – because she was the responsible, intelligent one trying to keep the family in line.

Here’s a partial translation of the Yomiuri Shinbun’s review (2 out of 5 stars):

"It’s a portrayal of stereotypical characters in an unfinished story. Even when I was taken in by the quality of the direction or the ability of the actors, the sense that something was out of place caused by the English dialogue and the Chinese geisha wouldn’t go away.

Maybe it would be better to just think of this as a Hollywood fantasy. Certainly, from the viewpoint of Americans, geisha, having been sold by their families, are equivalent to slaves. If you just look at the movie as the biography of a “beautiful slave” trained in the arts, its less boring.

But even if you do that, the movie is shallow. There’s not enough delving into Japanese history or into the society that produced these geisha. Most importantly, there’s no sense of respect towards Japanese culture seen through the geisha. Mr. Spielburg, you should have directed this movie."

That’s the only newspaper review I could find on-line (Japanese papers are very bad keeping old articles on their sites). Yomiuri Shinbun is the Japanese paper with the highest circulation, and fairly conservative.

I don’t read newspapers so…

I think most people decide which movies to go to based on previews, commercials, posters, genre, etc.

Here’s Kaori Shoji’s review in the Japan Times. Also 2 out of 5 stars. (may require free registration).

She also goes on about a number of absurdities in the storyline. She praises the actresses quite highly, however.

They immediately notice a Chinese actress playing an ethnic Japanese woman, can’t get over it, and hate the movie. It’s that simple. You’d be hard pressed to find a review where you could be certain that the reviewer paid attention beyond this point.

Waverly. Is your Username an Amy Tan character reference?

“in the role of a Japanese geisha during the Sino-Japanese conflict of the 1930s.”

An historical period that aslo saw the German-Jewish conflict.

I’m thinking they brought that up because of the incongruity of a Chinese woman playing a Japanese woman during that time.

Not quite that simple. In the JT review, it was more that the reviewer grew up in Kyoto, saw that what Marshall had put together looked more like the Epcot Center than her home town, and had a hard time suspending any disbelief beyond that point. The casting of Chinese actresses just emphasized that it was an American movie for American audiences.

No, I’m a Mr. Waverly. I’d rather date Waverly Jong than be Waverly Jong.

My curiosity about the casting is really that in general Chinese and Japanese people really do look different to each other. It’s like casting a blond Norwegian to play a blond Irishman. Sure, there are many commonalities, but there are still a hell of a lot of differences.

Then again, with Sean Connery as a Scottish Russian, perhaps I’m expecting too much of Hollywood.