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.