The Secret Life of Geisha
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Top Customer Reviews
This DVD is a pretty standard A & E presentation, with interesting interviews and stimulating visual images. The approach seems to very much be "How Westerners approach Geisha" rather than "How Japanese approach Geisha," as the majority of people interviewed seem to be Westerners such as Liza Dalby, Arthur Golden and western patrons of Geisha. Granted, Liza Dalby deserves to be interviewed on any such presentation, but it did come off a little bit too much like an add for Golden's "Memoirs of a Geisha," a book of dubious authenticity. Although he was used as a primary source, there was no mention of Mineko Iwasaki's lawsuit against Golden for mis-representing her life story in his book.
The nicest thing about a video such as this, as opposed to a book, is the ability to see the costumes and beauty of Geisha in living color, moving around in kimono and dancing and playing their instruments. Geisha are very visual, and a video brings this out better than a book. Susan Sarandon's narration was a bit distracting, and I would have preferred a Japanese narrator, as well as subtitling of the Geisha rather than over-dubbing.
Also missing from the video is that, in modern Japan, women also attend Geisha parties, with the staff of a school perhaps hiring a Geisha and a few Maiko to entertain both genders during a particularly special occasion.Read more ›
"The Secret Life of Geisha" explores the rich history and troubled present of geisha culture in Japan. The word geisha means artist, not prostitute, not hooker but artist. Americans unfortunately got the ridiculous notion that geishas are prostitutes during WWII when young Japanese women would sell themselves as geishas during the US occupation of Japan. This 100 minute long documentary is very thorough and explores a good deal of geisha history. I thought it was excellent to see a few geishas come out and speak about their life as geishas. Despite the misconception westerns might have about geishas, this life is not easy. These women of the arts are constasntly training in song and dance. The training never ends. They stay out at night until the wee early hours of the morning. They can only wash their hair once a week (or at least for maikos). I especially loved hearing what Liza Dalby (the only western woman to ever be allowed into this secretive world as a geisha) had to say given her experience as a geisha. Arthur Golden also speaks in the film.
It is rather ironic that "The Secret Life of Geisha" was released on dvd just prior to the release of the film "Memoirs of a Geisha". I definitely recommend seeing this documentary before seeing "Memoirs of a Geisha".
If you're thinking about getting the DVD over the VHS, it's really not worth it unless you don't have a VCR. The special features are little more than a brief glossary of terms, a side-by-side comparison of maiko-geiko and geiko-oiran descriptions. Perhaps they give American audiences too much credit, since the average Westerner wouldn't know all the differences between a maiko vs. geiko vs. courtesan without images. Also, the DVD cover art is stock photography of a poorly costumed woman. Trust me - you don't want a closer look at the ratty wig, bizarre hair ornaments, and butchered kimono - crossed right over left no less.
Liza Dalby provides spirited commentary with a soulful appreciation of the geisha life, and Arthur Golden (whose book "Memoirs of a Geisha" actually gives a much more accessible look at the hidden world) also discusses context and background. But not being able to understand any of the untranslated Japanese banter between geisha and customer makes us have to take on faith that they're charming conversationalists.
It's a good historical overview and the kimono are beautiful, but, again, there's little technical discussion even of the wardrobe, and one gets the sense that the subjects agreed to be filmed but also privately decided not to let the viewer pass through the mystique into real understanding.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting overview of the topic. Was particularly interested in the section on Yuki Morgan.Published 15 months ago by Kelly H. Blau
I am very much pleased with all the information with much study and interview
that has been brought here in this DVD to explain about Geisha of Japan. Read more
This is NOT the 50 minute 2002 documentary of Gion hanamachi in Kyoto Japan by the Discovery Channel [ASIN:B000TXOV08 The Secret World of Geishas Discovery Channel]. Read morePublished on April 29, 2011 by Sakuteiki
First of all, I don't see how that a geisha would be very entertaining. Maybe, as a crass American, I just don't understand. Read morePublished on June 1, 2010 by Roger Long
I was somewhat skeptical ordering this, as I've another A&E DVD which is mediocre. This one actually blew me away with its thoroughness and detail, beginning with the origins of... Read morePublished on April 30, 2009 by JNagarya
Wonderfully informative ! Colorful and exciting lives of girls whos only goal is to please gentlemen of wealth and culture. Read morePublished on February 26, 2007 by Robert M. Bonnett