- Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: English Uncompressed PCM 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit), English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Thai Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai
- Region: A
- Rating: PG-13
- Discs: 1
- Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
- Blu-ray Release Date: September 25th, 2007
- List Price: $28.95
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
You would have to have been living under a rock to not know of the controversies swirling around the filming of Memoirs of a Geisha. Chinese and Chinese-Malaysian actors cast in the lead roles led to many Japanese being insulted, long dormant memories of Japanese atrocities against the Chinese during World War II brought back to light, such as the forced use of Chinese women for sexual pleasures, “comfort women” as they were called, led to the Chinese government banning the film from release, and director Rob Marshall had to field so many questions on his casting choices.
These issues in combination with a story that amounts to a watered down, Westernized view of Japanese culture, in particular of the geisha, meant that the film, based on the Arthur Golden novel was hotly debated in Asian markets. Rob Marshall’s direction, which missed the mark on nearly all counts did not help matters much either.
The story of a young girl, Chiyo (Ziyi Zhang) — later renamed Sayuri when she becomes a full geisha — sold to a geisha house in Kyoto during pre-World War II Japan and raised amidst a culture of servitude to men and feminine rivalry amongst the other geisha, before eventually becoming one of the most sought after companions in the area, is rife with cliché imagery — granted beautifully filmed — of Japanese culture. Lingering walks through sunlit gardens blooming with cherry blossoms, sumo wrestling matches, tea ceremonies, men slamming back sake — they all make their way into Marshall’s lavish “Japanese” production.
The missing factor here, however, is any real sense of authenticity. Had Memoirs been handled by an Asian filmmaker, or actually been taken from an Asian source, it would be more interesting, but it is Hollywood in every respect and offers only a veneer of Japanese culture — the fast food, McDonalds version, if you will. Character development is also sorely lacking. There are hints of unrequited love between Sayuri and the Chairman (Ken Watanabe), a man she first meets when she is a little girl, and there’s much cat fighting between the geisha in the geisha house, but any real emotional development is missing from this film.
Memoir doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, a romance, a memoir, or a historical drama and it falls short on each count.
This is an absolutely superb transfer from Sony; I don’t hesitate to call it flawless. The AVC/MPEG-4 encoding effortlessly captures the lush and lavish production of Memoirs of Geisha in great detail. There are deep blacks with extended shadow detail, superb color reproduction, strong, sharp detail extension well into the background and natural flesh tones. A little bit of film grain is present and consistent throughout, preserving a good film-like look. This is definitely one of the stronger “early” Blu-ray releases available.
The main audio offered on Memoirs is an English uncompressed PCM 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) soundtrack. It is equally as pleasing as the video transfer. It is dynamic without being overwhelming and provides clean dialogue. The score from John Williams sounds airy and smooth and the surround channels are occupied with an abundance of audible, natural sounding atmospheric effects.
Sony have loaded this release up with a good amount of supplements that are both relevant and informative. Nothing outside of the Picture Gallery is in high definition, unfortunately, but they will still provide a quality side note and deeper understanding of the elements in the film.
The supplements provided on this release are:
- Rob Marshall and John DeLuca
- Colleen Atwood (Costumes), John Myhre (Production Designer), and Pietro Scalia (Editor)
- Sayuri’s Journey: From the Novel to the Screen (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:14.26)
- The Road to Japan (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:05.33) — The filmmakers discuss filming on location on Japan.
- Geisha Bootcamp (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:12.04) — The actors train fro six weeks in the art of the geisha.
- Building the Hanamachi (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:12.21) — The geisha’s residence.
- The Look of a Geisha (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:16.18)
- The Music of “Memoirs” (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:09.53) — John Williams and Yo-Yo Ma.
- A Geisha’s Dance (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:08.11) — The choreography of the geisha.
- The World of the Geisha (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:08.29) — The culture and history of the geisha.
- The Way of the Sumo (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:05.57)
- Director Rob Marshall’s Story (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:10.04)
- A Day With Chef Nobu Matsuhisa (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0:09.43)
- Photo Galleries (1080p/24):
- Costume Illustrations
- Chef Nobu’s Recipes
The Definitive Word
Memoirs of a Geisha looks and sounds beautiful on Blu-ray, but the film itself is a disappointment. Loaded with clichés and thinly developed characters, it is little more than a poor, Hollywood attempt at cashing in on Asian culture. This is no Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Kagemusha, but it will make a great looking date night movie as a rental.
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