Directed by Hideo Gosha
Starring: Ken Ogata, Kimiko Ikegami, Atsuko Asano, Mitsuko Baisho
Animeigo continues to put out great samurai, ninja and classic Japanese films on DVD. The Geisha, directed by Hideo Gosha (The Wolves, Samurai Wolf I and II, Sword of the Beast), was recently released on DVD and I couldn’t wait to give it a whirl.
Years ago, Katsugo (Ken Ogata) fell in love with a geisha and she bore him a daughter. They were very happy and knew that they had to get away. But happiness would elude him as she was killed right before his eyes, leaving him alone to raise their daughter.
Flash forward and now Katsugo is now a pimp that sells women to the Yokiro, the largest and most successful Geisha house in Southern Japan. On a side note, through research I learned that the Yokiro is still open today. I digress, back to the film.
The Yokiro is run by Osode (Mitsuko Baisho), a former mistress of Katsugo.
What happened to the daughter, you ask. Well, after being raised in the Yokiro, she is now known as Momowaka (Kimiko Ikegami), and she is one of the most famous and popular Geishas in the country.
Katsugo has a new girlfriend, Tamako (Atsuko Asano) and she has decided that she would like to become a Geisha at the Yokiro. Katsugo struggles with this as he knows that it is the choices in his life that has led his daughter to the life she has, now another woman in his life wants to go down the same path.
And, if Katsugo isn’t dealing with enough, Momowaka announces that she has fallen in love and a local yakuza clan decides they are going to take over the Yokiro and yakuza’s aren’t known for peaceful takeovers.
Life becomes much more complicated for Katsugo and Momowaka and the Yokiro may never be the same again.
The Geisha is a beautifully executed film. The lead performances by the Ken Ogata as Katsugo and Momowaka as Kimiko Ikegama are solid. The cinematography is wonderful and was provided by Fujio Morita, who was the director of photography on many of the films in the Zatoichi series. He also shot many of the Zatoichi TV series episodes. He is also known for his cinematography on the Lone Wolf and Cub film Baby Cart at the River Styx. In his earlier days, he was an assistant camera on the Akira Kurosawa classic Rashomon.
The Geisha makes for a fine evening of cinema and deserves a spot among your ever growing Japanese film collection.It isn’t a surprise that this film picked up 9 Japanese Academy Awards in 1984. Skip Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) and pick this one up instead.
This is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen. The transfer is very respectable and I did not notice any instances of grain or edge enhancement. The color palette is vibrant and striking.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 in the original Japanese language with English subtitles. The area in which Animeigo really shines is in subtitles giving the viewer the option to choose between white and yellow subtitles with both being a comfortable large font. Great job, Animeigo!
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The film is presented in a standard amaray case with a nicely subtle version of the original movie poster.
The bonus features are scarce on this release. There are text notes (cast and crew bios, Geisha notes and program notes) and an image gallery.
Rounding things out is a selection of trailers for other Animeigo releases.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Movie 7/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 8.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 3/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10