Japanese geisha, Arthur Golden '78 explains, take great care with their makeup. The lengthy and complicated process of adding layers and layers of precisely applied makeup is almost ceremonial, yet a geisha will leave a border of naked skin around the edges of her face, heightening the theatricality of her appearance. The rim of exposed skin supposedly reminds men of the rest of the geisha's well-concealed skin. Golden's new book is a sort of makeup remover. Memoirs of a Geisha starts at that bare rim of skin and gradually dissolves the entire facade of Gion, Kyoto's geisha district, during the s and s.
Geisha have fascinated the world with their ethereal blend of beauty and mystique. That porcelain-white face. Those ruby-red lips. The colorful kimono. The jet-black hair.
A poor Japanese family is forced to make a heartbreaking decision: to sell their young daughters into servitude. Chiyo Suzuka Ohgo and her sister are sent to a far away hanamachi geisha district as virtual slaves. Remarkably, American-born Goldman gave us a terrifically detailed view of the exotic and graceful life of Chiyo as she blossoms into one of the most beautiful, desirable and talented geisha, Sayuri. The result is a lushly crafted, beautiful to look at work that is faithful to its source material. But, if you consider the international acclaim of star Ziyi Zhang, Gong Li and Michelle Yeoh and their familiarity to American and other audiences - versus the lack of any internationally famous Japanese actresses - then the decision makes sense, especially to the bean counters.