Memoirs of a Geisha is exotic and equally as captivating. Although you are exploring a different place and different era, prewar Japan, you become so engulfed in the film that you become one with the protagonist Sayuri. There is a portion of the film which is dedicated to her transformation from a humble poor girl into the most lusted after Geisha in all the land.
The initial scene begins slowly as Sayuri paints herself with the trademark white makeup of a Geisha. The camera follows her delicate brush stroke to capture this care she takes with the foundation of her identity. The music is equally as delicate to convey this message. All the while Sayuri’s mentor is guiding her through the process. Scenes of guidance are interwoven with Sayuri’s independence. A third type of scene is also interlaced with the previous two where Sayuri is learning not just the art of being beautiful but the art of acting beautiful; captured in the scene where she delicately lifts the pale of water with such grace you'd never know it was practiced 1000 thousand times.
Her skills are equally if not more important than her physical beauty. To be a Geisha, in the context of the film, requires precision and attention to the smallest of details. Some girls who are shown are embarking on the same journey as Sayuri have more time but she has to master the art in a matter of months. To show the passage of time, Sayuri is scene playing a tradition Japanese instrument the snow is gently following in the background. It cuts to a scene of her once again applying the mask of a Geisha and the soundtrack tempo increases as her big reveal nears.
One of the most fantastic cuts is to the snapping of a hand fan which is so much more than a tool to cool her down; its a prop its powerful and one of the many ways a Geisha can attract the attention of a man. This cut really emphasizes the importance of seemingly insignificant object. The dialogue here is also very appropriate the room is flooded with sunlight and you are captivated by the beauty with which Sayuri and Mameha put on a show with just these fans. The camera pans around them to draw you in to the scene to make you feel like you are in the room and watching it first hand. Mameha says “The very word Geisha means artist”. The cut to the next scene is seamless as Sayuri has mastered the skill with her fan and can now be a leader among her peers only to be envied by a rival Geisha jealous of how far Sayuri’s has come.
The soundtrack in the next scene is much more intense and when she blows out the fire on the utensil she immediately applies to her face you feel the pressure she is under but she is committed to mastering her craft. Not all things are glamorous and the lighting used conveys this. She has to endure great agony to become the Geisha she dreams of. A thud noise as she hits the floor in frustration when she fails at a task conveys her emotions. But soon she is enveloped by a gorgeous red fabric which you don't necessarily see her putting on, its more a POV shot where you feel you are in her shoes.Scenes of the final touches are laced with her last major lesson, to stop a man in his tracks. She tightens her dresses and gets all the last details perfected before she most pass this final hurdle. She looks around as her final challenge approaches you can sense her insecurity as she sees him approaching but it also distracted by her surroundings. Her weakness becomes her strength as she sends the boy on the bike crashing into a coup of chickens, she is now the master and you sense her triumph as she keeps moving forward not looking back to see the mess behind her, created by merely her own glance.