Film Review: The Geisha House – goodbye money, goodbye love

First of all, I would like to say I like this film as a film but not as a representation of Geisha.  Am I being far to sensitive and protectorate about my impression of Geisha life and culture?

Blunt Synopsis:

The Geisha House (Omocha) is a 1999 film directed by Kinji Fukasaku, and it is set just as the anti-prostitution laws were coming into effect in Japan (1958) and demonstrated the changing attitudes towards Geisha at that time. Now, the story and the Geisha had very strong sexual plotlines.

The mother, had a sexual relationship with a patron for 10 years (scene with them drinking and a morning after scene suggesting sex) but his wife who was ‘the money’ wanted to put an end to it. So his son decided to use sexual manipulation to make this happen by seducing one of the house’s Geisha (they had sex). The father was furious and abandoned the mother. The son then wanted to see the Geisha again, raped her and then she sued. Serves him right….

Due to the lack of patronage, to fund the debut of a maiko for the house, the mother sold her body to a money lender. This was portrayed as an unpleasant sacrifice.

The other main Geisha of the story was first introduced playing sex games with a customer, going to ‘play golf’ (but then agreeing to sex, after swigging sake from the bottle) with another. The mothers friend (ex-Geisha) was also shown harbouring prostitutes at her bar to make money.

So that’s 4 of the women with very strong sexual story lines, but then we come to the maiko to be. This is the more endearing part of the story about her life as a maid, walking through the sexual lives of these women then (which was a curious point for me) – to become a maiko she has to loose her virginity (become a woman) at the time of her debut. The film ends with her re-signing herself to accept the highly sexual life she is about to live as money is very important to her.

So, if I didn’t know that there was a lot more art involved to Geisha. I would just think they were expensive and exclusive whores who like to party. But it is OK, they are all friends and happy.

The kimono and attention to detail in this film was perfect though, the settings, backdrops, atmosphere at the okiya…shame the Geisha were a bunch of tarts!

Disclaimer: My impressions of Geisha life and culture are mostly driven by Liza Dalby books, where Geisha are portrayed as discreet artists perfectly trained to entertain and engage men. Sex is sometimes involved, but at every engagement?