Memoirs Of A Geisha DVD Review

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by AVForums Apr 1, 2006 at 12:00 AM

    Memoirs Of A Geisha DVD Review
    SRP: £17.96


    Memoirs of a Geisha has an absolutely wonderful transfer. Presented in it's theatrically correct ratio of 2.40:1 and anamorphically enhanced, we have a disc with no form of compression artefacts, edge enhancement, grain or dust specs present. Colours are bright and vivid during the latter parts of the movie, with kimonos, lipstick and the town transformed with the swathe of vivid colours on display, compared to the earlier moments in the movie which are dark, grey and foreboding. Black levels have an excellent depth of detail, for example witness the scene in which Chiyo climbs across the rooftops at night to rendezvous with her sister. It's dark, but we can see each tile on the roofs, the moss on the pipes and all of this is under the cover of night. I hate to say the word reference quality but the picture quality of this title definitely earns it from me.
    Memoirs Of A Geisha Picture


    With a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, Memoirs of a Geisha sounds very good indeed. With a nice ambient feel, coupled with a John Williams score, we have a particularly dialogue heavy movie, which for “bass heads” won't be appreciated, but for a more subtle soundtrack there's much to enjoy, from the panning of traffic and ambient noises of the city, to the wind rushing behind you, this is as subtle in it's audio as the Geisha's movements themselves. LFE isn't overly used, although the thunderstorm at the beginning rumbles very well. Having said that, there's no real need in the context of the movie, but the score is absolutely amazing, which although gives it a more Americanised version of the far east, still fits well within the movie and draws you in to the time and place very well. It may not have the full-on sensation of say, War of the Worlds, but this is a superb, delicate soundtrack, just like the cherry blossoms.
    Memoirs Of A Geisha Sound


    With a 2 Disk set, it's no real surprise to see that the second disc holds all the extras, but on the first disk, we have aDirector's & Production Commentary Tracks and also Trailers for The Da Vinci Code, Fun With Dick & Jane, Rent, The White Countess and The Frank Capra Premiere DVD Collection. The commentary tracks are insightful, with both sides giving anecdotal stories, with some overlap. I'm not usually keen on commentary tracks, but these are more interesting than some others I've endured, with a nice insight into both the making of, as well as little nuances, such as sound changes made for certain scenes and so forth.

    Disk 2 starts with Sayuri's Journey:From The Novel To The Screen, a 14:25 minute featurette, which, as you can guess from the title, revolves around the process of taking the book, through screenplay to the big screen. There's a fair degree of back slapping but there's also a nice respect to the author and his original novel - one gets the feeling that when they said they wanted to do the book justice, for once, they actually meant it. Quite interesting to see not just the evolution of the screenplay, but to hear about the original evolution of the novel from the author himself.

    The Road To Japan is a 5:33 minute featurette and focuses on how they did their research in Japan and Kyoto, including the temples, a trainee Geisha and so on. It's very interesting to see the culture like this, even if it does strike you as an excuse for a proverbial “jolly”. However, they did shoot there as well (first time a movie has been shot in Kyoto apparently), for authenticity more than anything else. Ahh, such a hard life eh?Geisha Bootcamp is a 12:03 minute featurette which, believe it or not, features the actresses training in a proverbial boot camp in the art of a Geisha. From walking and dancing to playing the instruments, not to mention the issues of language with directing this movie, which is also touched upon, shows how hard this movie was to make, not just for the actors, but for everyone on the crew too. Definitely worth watching this featurette for those reasons.Building The Hanamachi is a 12:21 minute featurette which shows how the set for the Hanamachi (village) was constructed. They hoped they could find a village in Japan, but they couldn't so it was built completely from the ground up, so to speak. It was a huge undertaking, based on the featurette here and it's interesting enough up to a point - if you're interested in the sets, you'll love it. If not, it gets dull pretty quickly.

    The Look Of A Geisha runs for 16:18 minutes and as you can guess, from the makeup used to the costumes worn. It's interesting as while the makeup is authentic looking, we're told it was “softened” down because they weren't making a documentary! Quite right too. There's a lot of information about the look, from what's sexy and what isn't in the culture - for example, the back of one of the Geisha's has a white V shape - where some of the skin is covered and some isn't. This is highly provocative apparently; I suppose it's the equivalent to the glimpse of a stocking in western culture. Fascinating stuff here.The Music of “Memoirs” runs for 9:53 and takes us for a look into John William's superb soundtrack (Did you know he passed on the Harry Potter soundtrack for this?), where we see the method employed behind the soundtrack, with some of the rational - for example, the concept that the cello is Sayuri's voice throughout the soundtrack/movie. It's also nice to hear the wonderful, haunting soundtrack. Ok, I like the soundtrack, so sue me!A Geisha's Dance is a featurette which runs for 8:12 and focuses completely on the dancing. It's not duplicating the boot camp featurette, as that glossed over all elements and this is much more focussed. From the choreographers discussing the challenges coupled with the stars performing, behind the scenes, the highlight has to be the Winter Dance and if you've not seen the movie, you should be able to spot it from the screen shots in the review. That particular dance is certainly one sequence that will stick with you after you see the movie and it's nice to see it here in this featurette as the dominant section.The World Of The Geisha runs for 8:29 and focuses on who and what Geisha's are. The first thing we are told, as is mentioned in the film, is that Geisha are not prostitutes, which to be fair, I'd never thought of them as such but apparently it is a common misconception. Someone in this featurette describe them as a group of women who preserve the old arts and traditions. Interesting stuff for those who don't know who or what the Geisha are.

    The Way Of The Sumo is a 5:58 minute featurette regarding Sumo. I know, what's this got to do with Geisha's? Well, there's a scene in the movie where Sayuri meets the Chairman at a Sumo event, so naturally, it's covered in the extras. It tells a little about the history of Sumo and how the match is mostly ceremony - the actual combat lasts no longer than a minute at most. I have to say I didn't know that sumo wrestlers have to be able to perform complete splits - no matter if they weigh 300 or 600 lbs!

    Director Rob Marshall's Story is a featurette which elaborates on Rob Marshall's story of involvement with this particular movie. We find out about his history a little as well as how he approaches a scene. We find out that his life partner was involved in this movie as well as Chicago, so he's quite happy that his family were involved in those productions. It lasts for 10:02 and doesn't overstay its welcome.

    A Day With Chef Nobu Matsuhisa is a 9:43 minute featurette which, believe it or not, revolves around this highly regarded Chef. So, again, what's the relevance? Well...... the Chef is a huge fan of the book and somehow manager to blag himself a little cameo in the movie (when they are dyeing the silks in the river). This featurette touches upon that, but then we get a cooking class with the Chef for 3 different dishes. An unusual extra, but could be well worth trying out!

    Chef Nobu's Recipies takes the 3 dishes we see him prepare in the previous feature and gives us both a URL to download them, or we can view the recipes on screen if that's preferred.

    We also have access to 2 Photo Galleries, one is a behind the scenes gallery, the other, and much nicer one in my opinion, is of the costumes.
    Memoirs Of A Geisha Extras


    If you hadn't noticed, I really liked this movie. I found that although it is ultimately a simple tale, which is very Cinderella-esque, the fact we can sympathise with Sayuri, the fascination we have for the Asian culture and the fact that the on-screen imagery is superb does draw one in. It does withstand multiple viewings, such is the dynamic of the two rival Geisha's as well as seeing some very subtle layers of the story. The soundtrack is solid and the picture looked fantastic on my screen. After a friend had told me he found this boring, I approached it with a little trepidation, but I personally think the opposite. My only regret is that I hadn't seen it earlier. Thoroughly enjoyable and I can't see the need for another edition as this has some excellent extras. Recommended.
    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.96

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