Thursday, 13 November 2014

Review: Lady Maiko

The much anticipated Sydney leg of this year’s Japanese Film Festival has opened, and musical comedy Lady Maiko is the Opening Film. It is a well-chosen film to open the Festival as comedies have traditionally been particularly well received as the opening films at the Festival, and it is helmed by internationally acclaimed director Masayuki Suo. Those of you who have read my earlier post would know that Suo is a director whom I am very fond of. Shall We Dance? is my all-time favourite Japanese film, while Sumo Do, Sumo Don't also ranks high on my favourites list. It is great to see Suo return to comedies after a long break from directing followed by a pair of serious dramas (I Just Didn’t Do It and The Terminal Trust).

Lady Maiko is based loosely on the Audrey Hepburn classic My Fair Lady, and tells the story of Haruko, a young lady working hard to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a geisha. She is lucky enough to get help from a language professor to perfect her Kyoto accent and dialect, and things are going well but something happens that puts her at risk of losing everything that she has been working so hard towards…

Haruko is played by newcomer Mone Kamishiraishi, who was selected by director Suo from over 800 applicants. This young actress makes up for her limited acting experience with her innocence and sweetness that are essential for the role. The scene of her dancing with a dance teacher and another maiko is my pick out of the many song and dance routines in the film. Actor Naoto Takenaka (Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t, Shall We Dance?) and actress Tamiyo Kusakari (Shall We Dance?, The Terminal Trust) both have relatively few but nevertheless memorable scenes.

Overall, Lady Maiko is a colourful and delightful film. It may not be as funny as Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t, or as elegant as Shall We Dance?, but it is more charming than both of those Suo classics.

The Bottom Line: Mone makes one fair lady maiko.

(Seen at the 18th Japanese Film Festival in Australia – If you are in Sydney and happen to have missed tonight’s screening, be sure to catch it on Sunday 16th November when both Masayuki Suo and Mone Kamishiraishi will be there in person for a special Q&A session after the screening)

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