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The Geisha - international film DVD / drama DVD review
THE GEISHA Unrated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 3 1/2 stars
Featuring: Ken Ogata, Kimiko Ikegami, Atsuko Asano, Mitsuko Baisho, Tetsuro Tamba
Director: Hideo Gosha   Studio: Animeigo
DVD release: 10 February 2009   Runtime: 144 minutes
(1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Aspect ratio 1.85:1, Audio tracks (Japanese), Subtitles (English), Image gallery, Geisha notes, Cast and crew bios, Program notes, Theatrical trailers

Katsuzo (Ken Ogata) fell in love with a geisha in 1913; she gave birth to his daughter and died shortly after. Twenty years later, he's working as a talent scout of sorts for Yokiro, one of the oldest and most successful geisha houses in western Japan. His daughter, Momowaka (Kimiko Ikegami), is one of Yokiro's best geisha, the kind of entertainer who really keeps the geisha house afloat. The richest, most influential patrons request and receive attention from her.

Osode (Mitsuko Baisho) is Yokiro's madame, and her business is to make sure that the talent keeps business coming in. When Katsuzo's girlfriend, Tamako (Atsuko Asano), decides she's bored and wants to do the "geisha thing," Katsuzo brings her in for consideration. Osode turns her down as she doesn't have any debt for the geisha house to assume - Tomako's selfish motivation for becoming a geisha makes her an unfavorable candidate.

Katsuzo decides that she will instead work at Tamamizu, the number-one whorehouse in Kochi. It should be noted here that the geisha were not primarily prostitutes but rather entertainers who would dance, sing, play the samisen, play games, and tell stories. There was sex involved, but it wasn't a geisha's chief duty.

When Tamako and Momowaka meet face-to-face, an instant rivalry is born. This leads to a knock-down, drag-out fight in a bar later on.

The Geisha spans decades, illustrating the rivalries in the business, the angling for power, the involvement of the mob (yakuza). If you enjoyed Memoirs of a Geisha, you might enjoy this angle on the business. Originally released in 1983, this edition includes helpful notes displayed throughout, explaining some of the cultural points that Western audiences may not be familiar with. It was a very different time, and we can be grateful that it's no longer socially acceptable to sell 12-year-old girls into servitude.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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