PictureMemoirs of a Geisha is given a lavish, broad 2.40:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. It looks rich and sumptuous, with decent detail, good clarity, some softness but no grain. Edge enhancement is not apparent and there is no sign of any digital artefacting. The palette is broad and lavish, the colours well-represented at all time and the blacks solid enough to allow for decent shadowing, although a great deal of the picture is fairly (and purposefully) dimly lit. It's a good transfer for this very visually-orientated movie and it thankfully exhibits no signs of any print damage.
SoundMemoirs of a Geisha comes presented with quite a thumping, all-encompassing Dolby Digital 5.1 track, predominantly in English. The dialogue is clear and coherent, despite the heavy accents and the effects are extremely well-observed, from the tiny clicks of the shoes on the floor to sounds of planes flying overhead and the running streams of water. It gives the surrounds plenty of work to do. The oriental score is powerful, dominant and occasionally moving, even providing a little bass to round out a noteworthy soundtrack.
ExtrasFirst up we get an Audio Commentary by the Director Rob Marshall and one of the Producers, John DeLuca. They discuss the background of the movie, the whole Geisha world, how the movie was shot, the style they were attempting, the locations, the language difficulties (between the Chinese and Japanese stars who knew little English) and the performances of the various cast members. Unfortunately they never really address the issues of casting Chinese actresses as Japanese Geisha, nor do they talk about the reality behind this slave trade and they also spend far too long praising each other (and even, irritatingly, thanking each other for the praise) so it is quite a one-dimensional commentary, but fans of the movie will simply lap up the information that is on offer here.
Sayuri's Journey: From the Novel to Screen is a fourteen minute Featurette on how the movie company brought the internationally bestselling novel by Arthur Golden to the big screen. The author himself gets to contribute, talking about how his characters are fictional and how he originally created the world, writing several drafts of the book before being happy with it. Some of the other crew members, including the Director and the Producers, also contribute their thoughts about the original work and their ideas for bringing it to life.
The Geisha Bootcamp Featurette is twelve minutes long and has the Director, crew and cast looking at how the girls trained to be Geisha, having a 'boot camp' akin to the Army, except a little more fun. They had dialect classes, movement classes and so forth, each of them bringing them one step closer to being convincing Geisha girls and all under the expert tutelage of an ex-Geisha girl. Gong Li gets a subtitled interview, with Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang speaking quite sweetly in English about how much fun it was.
The Look of a Geisha is a sixteen minute Featurette about perfecting the look of Thirties Japanese Geishas. The Director and some of his fashion designers talk about how the Geisha girls were the superstars of the Thirties. Ken Watanabe, the lovely Ziyi Zhang, Youki Kudoh and Michelle Yeoh are interviewed (again in English) and talk about the look and the slight modernisation they applied and we also get some makeup being applied, makeup test shots and behind the scenes footage of the cast and crew in action.
A Geisha's Dance is another Featurette, running at eight minutes in length and looking at the dance that the girls had to perfect for the movie. The cast and crew discuss how important dancing was in the Geisha's repertoire and how elegant and subtle it is. There's some rehearsal footage, interviews and lots of anecdotes about the dancing history that the Director - and some of his crew - have in movies (having previously worked on Chicago).
The World of the Geisha is also eight minutes long and is a Featurette about the mysterious world of these elite professionals. The cast and crew discuss the illusion that Geisha are prostitutes, the fact that the world of Geishas is entirely constituted of women, with no men involved. There's some black and white archive footage, as well as some behind the scenes footage and a few interesting tales of Geisha girls.
Chef Nobu's Recipes is a text-based ingredients and cooking instructions section dedicated to three Japanese recipes: New Style Sashimi, Broiled Cod in Miso Sauce and Mushroom Toban Yaki.
Finally we get two Photo Galleries - one dedicated to Behind the Scenes shots and the other comprised of Costume Illustrations. Totalling about forty stills, in the behind the scenes section you can see how they had quite a lot of fun on set (with some of the girls behind the camera and some of the crew messing about with the Sumo wrestlers) and in the illustrations section you can clearly see the different styles that they wanted to achieve to distinguish the three central Geisha.
VerdictMemoirs of a Geisha tells the story of a young girl's struggle in a female-dominated establishment that caters to the desires of men. Its study of the Geisha world is exquisitely artistic, detailed and thoughtful. The video and audio presentations are decent and there is a wealth of extras that are all totally in-line with the style and sentiment of the movie itself. Although there is still something missing from this romantic period drama that leaves you feeling a little unsatisfied at the end, it is still a lavish, sumptuous and worthy watch.
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