Because we just cannot bear to let the damn thing go:
It’s one thing to see the city of Kyoto misrepresented, but when we’re asked to believe that a much older Japanese businessman and a young geisha during the 1940s would engage in physical contact in broad daylight, standing under a willow tree in a Japanese garden…surely that was when the theater should have released some emergency oxygen masks from the ceiling to save us all from hyperventilating. I looked around to see if everyone else felt the same, but no. This being Japan, the audience was restrained, respectful, polite. If only the movie had some of the same qualities.
Philip Brasor reports on the Tokyo press conference:
The director probably did believe he was "clarifying for the world what a geisha is," but did he ever watch, say, Mikio Naruse‘s movies from the 1950s, when the world that Sayuri lived in was still a recent memory? In those movies, the geisha don’t engage in professional cat fights on the melodramatic scale of "All About Eve," or dedicate their entire lives to the kind of romantic ideals codified in "Pretty Woman."
Sarah Kaufman at the Washington Post also attempts to portray an unhappy Japanese reaction to the film, speaking to dancer Shizumi Manale (who herself was offered a part in the film), but the article’s a bit of a howler itself:
Shizumi picks up a corner, fondling its rose-petal softness. "You see — this is art," she says quietly. "It really is like a living thing. It’s what we call the power of kimono.
"This is what Rob Marshall does not understand."
And Jae-Ha Kim at the Chicago Tribune gathers concerns from academia and the Asian-American community about the film reinforcing stereotypes:
Because many Americans mistakenly see geishas as the Japanese equivalent of prostitutes, Ji-Yeon Yuh, for one, is afraid the film will reinforce stereotypes about Asian women as exotic, submissive and obedient sexually.
"My personal belief is it’s better to have no Asians or Asian-Americans in the movies than to have only this sort of stereotypical and demeaning role," says Yuh, the director of Asian-American Studies at Northwestern University. "What, really, is so great about being in the movies that any role–even a demeaning one–is better than no role?"
+ Welcome to Kyoto, California (Japan Times)
+ Proving it to the people (Japan Times)
+ Hollywood’s Faulty ‘Memoirs’ (Washington Post)
+ ‘Geisha’ raises fears of stereotypical movie roles (Chicago Tribune)