Saturday, December 10, 2005

"Memoirs of a Geisha" controversy

Relations between Japan and China haven't been exactly cosy lately, and the film Memoirs of a Geisha isn't helping.

Some in Japan are upset that the three female leads, whose characters are Japanese, are all played by non-Japanese. (Ironically, though, the film was produced by Sony Pictures.) And the Chinese are upset that one of these leads, Zhang Ziyi, China's best-known actress, is depicted as having an affair with a Japanese man.

As for the former beef, my guess is that those bankrolling the film wanted actresses with international box office clout, and that's what they found in Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers), Michelle Yeoh (from all those Jackie Chan flicks), and Gong Li (Farewell My Concubine). Let's face it—Japanese cinema hasn't produced any international stars of the fairer sex lately.

Perhaps if Memoirs of a Geisha were filmed in the early '80s, the role of Sayuri would have gone to Yoko Shimada from Shogun.

China's beef can be understood in the context of the Japanese government's failure to come clean about its imperialistic past. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine are only fanning the flames.

But controversy like this always seems to translate into big bucks at the box office, doesn't it.

—Mellow Monk

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