Memoirs of a Geisha

Sony Pictures

Director Rob Marshall’s sumptuous, moving film Memoirs of a Geisha caused a stir back in December when it came out on the big screen, in part because of Marshall’s casting of non-Japanese actresses—Ziyi Zhang and Li Gong, who are Chinese, and Malaysian Michelle Yeoh—as Japanese main characters. A number of critics were outraged at Marshall’s move. Others have defended it. The recently released DVD provides, among other things in its lengthy accompanying disc of extras, an inside look at Marshall’s reasoning behind many of his directorial decisions in this emphatically non-documentary, stylized film. In a section titled “Geisha Boot Camp” we see how, in six weeks’ time, the actors of various native tongues are coached in all having a common dialect when speaking their English-language lines, as well as taught the many subtleties of behaving and dancing like geisha. The section on John Williams’ creation of the film score, with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Itzhak Perlman as featured musicians, is quite interesting.