I read the book Memoirs of a Geisha years ago, shortly after hearing it was going to be Steven Spielberg’s next movie after doing, I think, Amistad. I wasn’t too impressed since it seemed to be one long diatribe about feeling sorry for the main character even though we were then repeatedly told not to feel sorry for her. I didn’t completely dislike it but definitely felt the story of a poor girl who, after being sold off by her family, goes on to become the most famous geisha in Japan left quite a bit of emotion to be desired.
The movie, quite frankly, looks like one of those that is so specifically designed to be Oscar bait that there can’t be anything in the flick that wasn’t run past a dozen focus groups. Every performance, camera angle, soundtrack note and costume design appears to have been made to maximize the glitzy, emotionally stunted work that Academy voters seem to be preferring in the last few years. So, now that you know I’ve got an open mind, let’s dive in.
I actually really like this poster. It’s striking in a mono-chromatic sort of way and it’s hard to argue with how beautiful star Ziyi Zhang is. This is probably my favorite element of the campaign since it’s simple, clean and uncluttered.
If the actors could emote just a tad more, I think they’d really be onto something. As it is the performances seem so overblown and forced that the trailer almost slides into self-parody. We see the broad outlines of the story from a movie that probably doesn’t offer much more than broad outlines. The little girl is taken from her home and trained to be a geisha, but her spirit is just TOO DAMN BIG to be repressed by the trappings and tradition of the role. There’s lots of mood lighting around and lots of pretty costumes. We’re also reminded that this is from the director of Chicago, something that no one should really be proud of. But again, this is a movie made for the Oscars so the audience needs to be told that there’s already an Oscar win in the pedigree of the movie.
Before entering the site proper, there’s an interesting option available on the main page. Clicking on the “Customized Photostamps” link brings up a pop-up featuring a number of still images from the film which you can upload to PhotoStamps.com and have turned into stamps. Being as this is the Christmas season with all those cards being mailed, this is a cool option. Hope Sony does this on some more movies.
Unfortunately that’s about it as far as innovative or outside-the-box thinking goes on the official site. If you’ve seen one set of AIM icons and read one Production Notes piece then just take those and plug in “Memoirs of a Geisha” in the place of the other movie.
There were two other major efforts I came across for Geisha. First was the placement of an ad for the flick on the inside of Netflix rental envelopes. As I’ve stated before, I think this is a great idea since Netflix renters are a great cross-section of moviegoers, with some being artsy and some being mainstream. The other was a cross-promotional effort involving the NBC drama “Medium”. Sony apparently approached the show’s producer as being interested in having the movie mentioned on the show, which “Medium” producers said was fine if Sony bought some ad time during the show. Interesting idea but the reaction to it was a bit harsh.
The poster is great but the rest of the campaign leaves more than a bit to be desired. I just wish I didn’t have that sense that this movie has been tweaked in a thousand little ways to get as many Oscar nods as possible. The majority of this campaign seems to have been laid out with pinpoint precision and it has lost a good deal of spirit in the process. Disappointing.