The Geisha Hideo Gosha

The turnaround from '70s grunge to '80s wealth hit Japan as it did everywhere else, hence we find samurai outlaw Hideo Gosha about-facing with this glossy, multi-award-winning prestige picture about geisha. But don't think Gosha turned his back on cynicism — though the trappings are classy, his approach is still to turn over the rocks and poke at the corruption underneath. Set in Yokira, the most famous geisha house of the first half of the 20th century, it details the trials of Momokawa, a geisha sold to the establishment at age 12. Negotiating the web of intrigue that poisons the house proves tricky and her romance with its embittered master (Ken Ogata, dour and blank-faced) is offset by yakuza, pregnancy and jealousy. At first, one is disappointed to see relatively pallid colours and restrained genre theatrics coming from gonzo badass Gosha but scratch the surface and he's still workin' it. The corruption of the milieu is first and foremost, with the hypocrisy of men being the film's main theme; it is the boys who work the purse strings and control the exhausting performances of women who must entertain men at the cost of their own personality. Visually, the geisha house is a weird maze that the director works for surprisingly varied effects, and while none of them smack you over the head as before they're effective to anyone willing to look closer. This is a solid effort you wouldn't expect from this director, unless you expected it all along. Extras include a picture gallery and an unusually thorough raft of AnimEigo's super-detailed production and historical notes. (AnimEigo)