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27 January 2006 @ 06:54 pm
Memoirs of a Geisha | Queer As Folk (the Manchester version)  
Memoirs of a Geisha is very pretty. If it were a painting, I might have looked at it for a whole five seconds before getting bored and moving on to find the next thrill. I saw it last night, and since then a dissatisfaction has been growing on my mind.

This is in direct contrast to my Queer As Folk DVDs, which I bought while hopping into Virgin after leaving the cinema. (Which is to say ... not actual hopping, as such. Sort of a casual saunter. Or maybe a skip.) It stole my heart and soul after a whole five minutes. IT IS LIKE FANFICTION BROUGHT TO LIFE. IN A GOOD WAY.

So, without further ado, the summary of my thoughts:
-- the lack of wanking in MoaG
-- general irritation at MoaG
-- boys having sex and OMG THE BEAUTY OF IT
-- vague insultation of kabeyk (or is it?)

Okay, so here's the thing. The more I think about it, the more I find reason to believe that MoaG was a film made with a firmly twenty-first century lens stuck on top of the camera. I've read this book three times and my love for it has not abated. The film didn't do anything overt to crush this love and turn it into something a bit pathetic and formulaic, but it twisted things just a smidgeon. And that was enough. In no particular order, I give you my beef.

1) Mameha and the Baron. I got a strong impression that Mameha was an extremely pragmatic gal with an eye to the main chance. I never saw any hint in the books that Mameha was in love with/had feelings for the Baron. Not once. He was an oik and a molester and a pretty yucky guy all round. Mameha put up with him because he paid well, and to be fair she didn't express the repugnance she could have. Yet in the film we see Mameha -- not to mention Hatsomomo and Sayuri -- buying into the 'Woe is me, for I'm not allowed to be in love! Waah!' ethos. I mean, that's Little Twisted Point Number One: Mameha alters the bidding for Sayuri's mizuage so that the Baron doesn't win. That didn't happen in the book and, more importantly, Mameha is not the sort of person who'd do that. If anything was insulted by the Baron's move it was her pride, but she is a Carrot-y sort of person in that she thinks 'personal is not the same as important'. Getting a good price for Sayuri's mizuage, thus clearing her of debt and bagging Mameha a tidy profit, was Mameha's highest priority.

But no, we have to make Mameha into Tonks.

2) Hatsumomo spitefully calling Pumpkin a 'virgin.' Just, no. Mizuage was a ceremony after which you became a full geisha; virginity is where you haven't had sex yet and, to differing degrees, is regarded as a state worthy of derision. Do you get the difference? I'm sure you do, and Hatsumomo would not have thought the latter way because it's purely and simply a very modern Western one. The idea that virginity isn't something to be preserved and revered is really new. Little Twisted Point Number Two.

3) The constant repetition, over and over, that geisha weren't free to love, that they had no choices in life, that they were in some way 'slaves to pleasure.' Oh, cry me a bloody river. Yes, Mameha says once in the book that, "We do not become geisha because we want to. We become geisha because we do not have a choice." However, consider for a moment the times in which I and most of you live. I don't think there's many of you who think that you aren't free to love. However, NEWSFLASH! This isn't set in twenty-first century Ireland/England/USA/Canada! It's set in the Japan of the thirties. Now, I know from reading a book on the history of manga that Japan is still a fairly strait-laced place in terms of the roles of men and women in the home and workplace. Now, if we multiply that by ten thousand, we come near to Japan pre-WWII. Women got married, men got married, usually by loveless arrangement. Also, I betcha tonnes of people were piss-poor, ekeing out a living in slums and whatnot. Thus we have Little Twisted Point Number Three.

Enter geisha. They get good food, nice lodgings, an excellent social life and schooling. In return, they sell themselves for sex (according to the book) perhaps once or twice a year, unless they happen to find a danna. They aren't common whores -- Sayuri's sister, with the front-tying obi that WE NEVER GOT A GLIMPSE OF, DAMMIT, was a common whore. Sure, the life of a geisha ain't perfect. But fuckit, whose IS? Girls in Japan back then (and for all I know, now) weren't brought up to expect much out of life. No one ever said geisha weren't allowed to be in love -- um, hello, the whole story was based on that? But, I imagine most of them were more concerned with their survival in a world hostile to their sex. Most women are more pragmatic than men when you get down to the very bedrock. After all, the stupidest, soppiest love songs/sonnets/poems/plays were written by who ...? When you consider the options open to women at the time, geishas didn't get a bad deal. Personally, if it was me, I'd be geisha'ing before you could say 'How much?'

4) I didn't think Auntie and Mother were mean enough. Little Twisted Point The Fourth: there was an element of them 'coming to see the worth in the Cinderella girl' that I loathed. Auntie and Mother were cool, they were survivors, not enablers for stupid geisha who fell in love with men three times their age.

5) Oh, I don't know; the love story was simplified a little, Twisted A Little Five, and I didn't like it. The fact that Sayuri traces back all of her problems with the Chairman to the wrestling match where she was forced to pay more attention to Nobu than the Chairman -- aslifjhskjfd. It wasn't that clear-cut! Moreover, Sayuri knew that at the time outwitting Hatsumomo was far more important than lovin' on the Chairman. Hatsumomo could have utterly destroyed her and thus any chance she might have had with the Chairman. Sayuri had enough wit to realise that much. And who's to say that if Sayuri had paid attention to the Chairman then, it would have turned out differently? Nobu was a dense git, he prolly would have fallen for Sayuri anyway, and what then of her theory?

6) The Very Twisted Postcard Analogy (Six). Jesusgod. 'The sacred thingummy of the geisha had become picture postcards for girls back home'. WTF. WTF, I say. First of all, Sayuri (who has the soul of a rebel) spent her entire life using the geisha-hood for her own purposes; why then would she be sad to see it crumbling? Besides which, after five years of war and deprivation, I'm sure the last thing on people's minds was preserving an esoteric and somewhat shameful part of their culture. Food, that'd have been the thing.

7) Not a Twisted Point, but a reaction -- who said this film was trying to pass geishas off as artists and failed? Like, everyone. And that's stupid, therefore everyone is stupid. Of course they were not painter-artists or dancer-artists, but I think if you went down the Dock Road in Limerick to pick up a hooker today, you wouldn't find any of them who could use fans like a cross between an instrument of mass destruction and a captured butterfly. Nor would they be trained in the 'entertainment' -- yes, entertainment, not sexual pleasing -- of their clients. Sure, it's all got to do with sex, but what doesn't, when you come down to it? You are what you think you are. Geisha are geisha, and the word means artist.

And the word actress can mean prostitute. Go figure.

8) Why, but why, when the Baron was undressing Sayuri, did he not wank himself off like he did in the book? No, I'm not saying this because I'm obsessed with boys wanking (even though that's ... true ...). In the book, Sayuri a) didn't know what he was doing, but we did and b) she was still freaked out. It really heightened the intensity of the situation. The Baron pulling off her top (a bit) = not the same effect at all. As I will later relate, QaF shows that you can make wanking both clear and hot without showing any nasty boy bits. This Little Twisted Point sucked, and not in a good way.

9) The Last Twisted Point is, appropriately enough, for the last line of the film. "These are the memoirs of a geisha, not the memoirs of an empress, or the memoirs of a queen." This correlates with the fact that Sayuri couldn't marry the Chairman because he already was married and she was, oh jeepers, a WHORE.

First off, WTF (again). Because empresses and queens have such liberty in choosing their future mates, and political machinations and monetary considerations don't impact upon it AT ALL. OBVIOUSLY. Le jeez. How about you take Roman Holiday and Anna and the King and stick it where the sun don't shine, eh?

Besides which, Sayuri was content with what she had -- and I'd wager she got more of the Chairman than his actual wife. One of my favourite parts of the book is where she describes listening to him talk about work, not really understanding it, but knowing he didn't require her to -- he just wanted her to listen. A big lesson to be learned there, if you care to. But no, you can't, because what could you possibly learn from such a self-deprecating prostitute?

I liked the psycho rain dance though. That was good. I never copped that it was such a big event in the books -- I took more notice of the (cut) part about the crazed artist -- but still. Good.

And now, Queer As Folk. Bear in mind that I've only seen the first four episodes. It was enough to pick up a few things, though.

1) So this is the Charlie Hunnam everyone squees themself to death over.

2) He's fit.

3) His character is an absolute plonker. I decided that from his first conversation about his bloody peanut allergy, and this feeling has only intensified the more I watch of him.

4) Stuart. Oh, Stuart. Take me now. Charisma is something all the six-packs and floppy blonde hair in the world can't give you, and Stuart has it in spades.

5) Aidan Gillen or whatever his name is now occupies my mental image of kabeyk. It's sort of a good thing. Mainly because this programme reminds me of her stories and makes me equally as gleeful as they do, I think.

Yes, I realise she's a girl ...

6) Gotta wonder at the desire always to be taming playboys. Sure, I'd like to do it myself, but -- why the general consensus taming-wards? What is it about those who have the charisma and balls to just take what they want and dump it when they're done with it, that it's always necessary in fiction/film to 'convert' them? To make them desert their life of vice and become redeemed to the nine-to-five, wife and two point five kids lifestyle? To anyone who can get away with Stuart's lifestyle, I say have at it for as long as poss.

And then marry Vince and shag happily ever after.

7) I am doomed to a life of being Vince, sans shagging.

8) I have no idea what words to use to separate this programme from straight porn. It doesn't deal with many big capital-letter issues (thankfully), and I find the characterisation well-thought-out and believable, and it's very funny ("I kissed a girl once. It was like snogging the Body Shop." Best. Line. Evar.) -- but the sex scenes are, well, sex scenes. They're steamy, they're hot, I was patting myself on the back for knowing what rimming was in the first episode, but tasteful and artistic they are not. Thank God.

9) THIS. This is what I want from books and films. It's not that I'm tired of fandom, but it's a small paddling pool. I'm yearning for real!boy slash, now. Not dark, edgy stuff, where rocks fall and everyone dies. Just boys encountering the usual relationship obstacles -- jealousy, uncertainty and, of course, the shining denial. I don't want challenges. I want something very specific, romantic yet not soppy, plenty of UST but a direction in the narrative that I've trod many a time before. This is best exemplified in my current favourite yaoi, Yatteranzee. I strongly urge people who share my tastes to check it out. It's got everything I love (aside from the spaz-moment with the almost-rape, but what's manga without it's spaz-moments?) and what I long to see more of. It's one reason why I always sigh when I see 'plots' in fanfic, and turn my eyes to heaven, and skip over those parts. One day, people will learn that relationships between boys can be a story in themselves -- queerlit to the mainstream chicklit (thanks, lunacy; am obscenely attached to that word now). On that day, I will be a very happy girl. Until then ...
Current Mood: nerdyself-indulgent
Current Music: "Knocking On Heaven's Door", Guns N Roses
pir8fancier on January 27th, 2006 11:07 am (UTC)
I adored the book MofaG, too, and all the reviews I read (even though I am SUCH a Ziyi Zhang hor) made me determined NOT to see it, no matter how pretty it was. It sounded like a bunch of sexist tripe. The sort of movie made by a 14-year old boy. Someone who didn't understand the basic concept of the book. Or, it thought it was pandering to a western sensibility--uh, which is really sick because then it comes down to liking your whores in pretty drapey silky wrap things and white face make-up. Ugh. Not intending to waste a single dime on this movie.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Don't quote me -- Wildescoradh on January 29th, 2006 11:47 am (UTC)
I'm all for trying to stick closely to a book when making an adaptation. But this film managed to both stay true to most of the book, in terms of events and whatnot, and still deviate from it, without ever making a memorable and worthy film in its own right.

It still wasn't the worst film I've ever seen, and I like the sweets they sell in the Gate so I wasn't too badly off, but it disappointed me more than anything.
Ticcadaniellafromage on January 27th, 2006 11:30 am (UTC)
I saw MoaG a few days ago and I haven't read the book in several years - after leaving the cinema, I literally didn't think of the film again until you mentioned it now.

I pretty much agree with all your points. I don't know. I'd rather it had been filmed in Japanese with English subtitles, and I wish that more use had been made of the beautiful metaphors Sayuri used in the book. I generally enjoyed it, though - the first scene with the Chairman was exactly as I imagined it, and Pumpkin was the cutest thing ever with her western clothes. Not a film I'll remember forever but it was fairly entertaining, I guess.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Boop!scoradh on January 29th, 2006 11:52 am (UTC)
I know! It's instantly forgettable. Even Hatsumomo was never the villianess she really was. Not to mention that I was crying and deeply touched at the end of the book. After the film, I was mainly thinking about how good that Ben and Jerry's Cookie Dough Ice Cream had been and if I was going to miss my bus. Not signs of a deeply touched person, I feel.

I read about someone complaining that they could have got actresses who acted better in English, and I agree. The actresses' expressions and everything were well conveyed, but let down by that broken English. Besides which, I really don't think all foriegners speak English when they're alone ...

I thought the Chairman was exactly as I imagined him; but that scene struck me as a little creepy when translated to the big scene. I loved that he turned out to have engineered her geisha-ness in the book, but in the film it comes home that he fancied a twelve-year-old. And she didn't even look that.

Pumpkin was teh kewl.
kabeyk on January 27th, 2006 11:39 am (UTC)
Haven't read Memoirs of a Geisha, so I can't go see it probably (am like that).

I hated QaF, mainly because my parents used to sit and watch it with us. Not fun, and my mother has issues. Possibly I'd like it if I saw it again.

I don't mind, because my mental image of you is a small white rabbit, so there. And of course I'm as hot as Aiden Gillen; the only difference between us is that I have the bigger cock.

Totally with you on the real slash thing, but then I know for a fact it's because I couldn't write like all dark and clever if I tried. Argh.

every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Caesarscoradh on January 29th, 2006 11:55 am (UTC)
You should read it -- it's really lovely -- but you're not missing much by not seeing the film. IMHO.

Oh, but I think you would! I am in love with this programme and that has never happened before with something from the TV. Plus, hot nekkidness.

Is she like my mum, who when we were watching the lesbian bits in The Secret Life of Us, turned around and asked me if they didn't make me feel a bit uncomfortable? Two girls, like that? I was like no ... (obviously they didn't do much for me, but it's fine and dandy if that bloats your stoat. I don't think she was asking that, though.)

He is insanely hot, for someone who's not all that good-looking. His teeth are terrible. I would marry him tomorrow.

Yes, but one day you'll write a gayboy book! First Waterstones ... then the world ...

Online I'm a Giant: beautiful thingparthenia14 on January 27th, 2006 12:22 pm (UTC)
Ooh. Haven't seen MoaG, it looked...it looked like the plot was familiar.

Eek, QaF. I was buying Christmas presents for everyone in my family in HMV and they, er, had the box set, so they fell in my shopping basket. I only saw about 1 of the original episodes. Unfortunately I have to wait till my SO is out of the way (and he doesn't go out of the way very much) to watch them.

I feel so...mildly warped. *Sigh*.

Mind you. Real slash. *taps fingers* Trick. That's a very sweet film, with lashings of UST. I got it from my fannish enabler, who also sends along all his Big Gay Lit recommendations. Beautiful Thing and Latter Days are also supposed to be good films.
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(no subject) - parthenia14 on January 28th, 2006 02:31 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 29th, 2006 12:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 29th, 2006 12:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - parthenia14 on January 29th, 2006 04:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 30th, 2006 11:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 29th, 2006 11:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - parthenia14 on January 29th, 2006 12:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 29th, 2006 12:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 29th, 2006 12:15 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - parthenia14 on January 29th, 2006 05:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 30th, 2006 11:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - parthenia14 on January 30th, 2006 02:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 30th, 2006 02:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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The Fancatus Bureau of Incest: (qaf) :} brian kinney gives a shitbalefully on January 27th, 2006 01:20 pm (UTC)
Have you seen the American QAF, though?! Because it is, like, 2085101238520835 times more brilliant than the UK version. OMFG.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Draco well shitscoradh on January 29th, 2006 12:02 pm (UTC)
NO! Everyone keep saying it is and I believe them, but I've never seen it on sale here. They had QaF (B) tucked discreetly away too -- doubt they want to announce they're selling lovely gay boy love stories ...
patron saint of the mediocre: me; larsthrupenny on January 27th, 2006 02:04 pm (UTC)
I haven't read/seen MoaG of QaF (yay acronyms!) but am intrigued by this:

I want something very specific, romantic yet not soppy, plenty of UST but a direction in the narrative that I've trod many a time before. This is best exemplified in my current favourite yaoi, Yatteranzee. I strongly urge people who share my tastes to check it out.

I don't get along with most yaoi but this sounds cool.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Slashscoradh on January 29th, 2006 12:04 pm (UTC)
That demands an explanation! I could point you towards a few other recs, but Yatteranzee is the first I've seen that comes closest to a believable tale -- in terms of emotions and everything. Not one chibi moment either, now I come to think of it. Also touches on stuff like AIDs and discrimination, although admittedly every bad guy turns out to be a good guy in the end.

Plus is very pretty. Check yaoi_daily; if the links are down I may be able to figure out how to YSI you my zips!
(no subject) - thrupenny on January 29th, 2006 12:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on January 29th, 2006 01:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Zilch. Zero. Nothing. Nada.inmyth on January 27th, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
Ooh I'm reading MoaG at the moment, so far it isn't too bad though I stupidly believed it was a true story, went round telling my Physics class it was a true story and so moving (*headdesk*) until someone proved me wrong *sniff*! Darn it! It always happens to me *pout*. Oh and did you get the UK or USA QaF version? I watched all 5 USA series in one week I was like: o_O with lots of twitching. But it was worth it. Haven't watched the UK (and reading back to your post...gah I'm such a plum at times!) and won't until I leave home so yeah...

Though watched BBM twice and cried, and sobbed, and sniffed and just couldn't breathe! Got stared at by lots of people but it was very moving, dammit!
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Charlie/Jackscoradh on January 29th, 2006 12:06 pm (UTC)
It was only on reading it for the third time last year that I realised it wasn't a true story myself, so don't feel bad!

Wow. I managed to watch the OC Season 2 in one week and am talking like Marissa Cooper since, but five seasons? Whoa. The Manchester one is good, and I had to laugh -- one of the gay guys in it now plays a gay man on Coronation Street, a soap set in Manchester. He hasn't changed a bit ...

Still waiting for that to come out here, dammit.
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every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Cigarette mangascoradh on January 29th, 2006 12:08 pm (UTC)
1999. God. I know seven years isn't that long in real time, but in my life it is. I hadn't even read Harry Potter in 1999! The fandom and the delights it contained (rimming barely tips the ice-berg) were all in the distant future ...

Oh, man. I think he even bests my love for Dylan Moran. And that is saying something.
wildestranger on January 27th, 2006 03:22 pm (UTC)
You remind me of why I loved QaF so much. Should buy the DVD and watch it again.

Also it occurs to me that Stuart is very close to my idea of fanon Draco.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: ^_^scoradh on January 29th, 2006 12:09 pm (UTC)
Fanon Draco? God, I can't see that myself. For one thing, he's got brown hair. For another, Draco's a twat and Stuart is ... perfection and a sex god and PWHOAR and stuff.

Still, each to her own!
Beer and Skittles: ? - Amelieliadlaith on January 27th, 2006 04:08 pm (UTC)
What I really disliked about MoaG was the way they made Sayuri's story all about the denial of choice and the reclamation of choice, but told it through the lens of this love story: at the end, after saying she's wanted her own life the whole way through, she turns around and just gives her life up to the Chairman. WTF? Make up your mind!
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Theodore/Luna (Standing)scoradh on January 29th, 2006 12:11 pm (UTC)
Have you read the book? That's really not how it was. You know, it starts off in her village, she sees the man who 'sells' her with a geisha through a window and is struck by the amazing effect this genuinely plain woman has on this man whom she regards as very cultured and slick. Her beef with the geisha was being seperated from her sister and, I imagine, the harshness of life in the Nitta okiya; it's when she sees the Chairman that she finds a way to turn that to good purposes. She became a geisha for him. That's why the whole choice/no choice boggled me exceedingly.
muchspork on January 27th, 2006 05:54 pm (UTC)
i've never read the book, but i went to see the movie, and i thought iwas generally good, but some bits annoyed me. but i am a sucker for teh pretty, and sayuri and mameha and hatsumomo were all pretty, so i was all turned to shallow mode and loving it.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Crackscoradh on January 29th, 2006 12:12 pm (UTC)
What bits bugged you?

I was actually struck by the white makeup on their backs. I'd never been able to picture that from the descriptions Golden provided, so that was cool.
(no subject) - muchspork on January 29th, 2006 10:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
unraveled words.miss_charmed on January 27th, 2006 10:58 pm (UTC)
This reminds me I need to watch the UK version. Dude, please go see QaF US. Brian Kinney and Justin Taylor rocks this life and the next. Seriously. ♥
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Darcy Squeescoradh on January 29th, 2006 12:13 pm (UTC)
I find it hard to believe that anyone could top the utter PHWOAR Stuart/Aidan Factor, but rockin' hot gay boys? I'm there!

Once I get it off Amazon, that is.
amberthefool on February 13th, 2006 03:37 pm (UTC)
So, umm, should I not see this film tomorrow like I'm planning to, then? >_<

I remember back when everyone was going on about this book. I think I got a few pages in before getting bored, and thinking I was about the only person who'd had that reaction to the book.

But if the movie really is as whiney about not being able to find true love etc. in 1930s Japan of all places then I'm not sure I'll be able to sit through it without committing suicide via burying my head in a carton of popcorn. (Hell, I have plenty of relatives nowadays who get married without being in love.)