Memoirs of a Geisha

Last night was cool and still. The line was clear to the alley alongside the theater when I joined it. By the time we started entering the theater, the line went all the way up the alley to Mercer! In a marketing coup, a Lake Union suchi place was handing out California sushi to everyone in line. Along with a small paper plate holding two samples, was a business card and a discount coupon. There were three or four tall, skinny Asian women schlepping huge trays over and over and over. I can't imagine how many trays of goodies they distributed! They fed people for the duration of our wait! They also had tables set up inside the theater with handouts for other things. I was focused on capturing a seat, so skipped all the giveaways.

This movie is very, very well done. I was familiar with four of the five Asian leads, the men were Japanese and the women Chinese, but the dialog was in English. The soundtrack was pretty good with a beautifully articulated voiceover a good portion of the time. The movie captures the claustrophobic feel of the crowded Japanese city life and the teeny little rooms in the rabbit warrens they call homes. We saw the domestic life: carrying water, climbing ladders to go upstairs, doing the laundry, scrubbing floors, etc. The shoji screens and flimsy outside walls afforded little or no insulation, so it is clear how cold the populace is much of the time.

The child actress who played the lead during her early years is beautifully cast! She looks just like a little girl who could grow up to be Ziyi Zhang! The terror of being sold into slavery with her sister and then being separated from her almost immediately was wrenching. The movie starts with her at age nine. The kindness of some of the people in the cast is clearly conveyed, by voice, expression and action, so there is no confusion about who is who except the character "Pumpkin" who, if you read the book, has a pivotal role. The American servicemen are presented even-handedly, which was a relief.

There wasn't an empty seat...many Asian faces...lots of "amateur theatre-goers" with all the confusion that entails. They probably turned away several hundred people and many left the moment they saw the line, realizing they would NEVER get in. Standing where I did at the beginning of the alley, I could see the looks on the faces of would-be attendees when they rounded the corner, looked down the alley and realized how many people would be in front of them. Many said, "Oh my God!" My personal favorite was the tall young man who rounded the corner, took one look and said, "Holy S**T!" before he left. Many abandoned their plans just driving by; you could see their faces through the car windows as they scoped out the situation.

All in all, standing in line with other theatre-lovers, is always a treat. Lots of lively talk, laughter, and as it turned out for many, sushi! All of this capped by a wonderful movie.


The Secret Life of Words

Film is an international language. In this much-lauded drama, we have a Spanish writer, a Canadian actress playing a refugee from the Balkans, a Danish location, a British actress playing a Danish counselor, a Spanish director, an American actor, and depictions of human suffering and grace which are universal.

Sarah Polley ("Slings and Arrows" and "Don't Come Knocking") is an almost-mute factory worker in Denmark. Her boss finally insists she take some time off, as she has never been sick, late, or absent, and her co-workers have started to complain. He sends her off for a month in sunny Spain. When she arrives she overhears a conversation in which a man says he needs to find a nurse for a few weeks who can care for a badly injured worker on an oil rig just off the coast. She volunteers and our story begins.

Tim Robbins ("The Lucky Ones" and "City of Ember") is her patient, who attempts to be witty despite his pain, and hits a dead end because she just isn't very chatty. Undaunted, he provides her with a fictitious name and a physical description so he can imagine her as he chats with her (his eyes have been damaged in the accident and he is temporarily blinded).

We watch their relationship evolve and we also become acquainted with other workers on the oil rig. I was struck once again with what a brilliant actress Sarah Polley can be. My thanks to one of our JayFlix folks for recommending this 2005 movie so I could check it out of the Seattle library. I hope you can find it, too...


40-Year-Old Virgin

This is one of those movies that looks like a snicker-and-grin type, you know, juvenile humor, crass teenage stuff, and lots of crude jokes. Well, yeah...but then...it actually has a sweet center to it. It is elevated by the wonderful performances of the two leads, Steve Carell ("Little Miss Sunshine" and "Bruce Almighty") and Catherine Keener ("Capote" and "Being John Malkovich").

As the title implies, Carell is our hapless hero who, through a series of completely understandable events, is in his current chronic state. He collects action figures - never takes them out of the boxes as that would detract from their value as collectors' items. He works in an electronics store and his co-worker/drinking buddies are just that until they tumble to his "condition."

After all of the unwelcome comments, including speculation that he is gay, they devote themselves to rectifying it - Speed Dating - Computer Dating - Sleazy Pickup Joints - etc., etc. He is just fastidious enough that he finds most of it fairly repugnant. He does, however, discover what poseurs his friends actually are, much to their chagrin, and leaves them to it!

Naturally, this is Hollywood, so watch the film and enjoy the romance... ...and the juvenile humor, crass teenage stuff, and lots of crude jokes... ...smile...we all do, ya know...


Dear Frankie

One of my favorite, multiple-viewings films is "Dear Frankie." This is a Scottish film about a deaf boy being raised by his single mother, played by Emily Mortimer ("Match Point" and "Two Brothers and a Bride") and his chain-smoking grandmother. They are constantly on the move (from his abusive father, as it turns out) but he doesn't know why.

Our little hero blithely writes letters to his absent father who he has been led to believe works on a ship which travels from port to port. The boy tracks the ship from information he receives in the mail; he has a world map which he keeps on his bedroom wall. Trouble is, even though the seaman father is fictitious, it turns out the ship is real and it is coming to their port!

The mother has been intercepting the boy's letters and responding to them for years. Now, she has to scramble! She's got to find someone to pretend to be his father for a day. Enter The Stranger, played by Gerard Butler ("Timeline" and "Lara Croft") in his first featured role. Do you think you can figure out where this is going?

I don't care. This is a lovely film and I am glad I own it.

Per Maltin, "Warm but never mawkish" and he gives it three stars.