There were excellent supporting performances by Kaori Momoi as the owner of Hatsumomo and Sayuri's geisha house, and Youki Koudo, as "Pumpkin," Sayuri's geisha "sister." Ken Watanabe as the "Chairman" has little to do but be charming as the (mostly) distant object of Sayuri's desire, and in fact his performance is quite overshadowed by that of Koji Yashuko as the passionate and tragic Nobu. A Wisconsin connection: Randall Duk Kim, one of the founders of our American Players Theatre, has a small but important role as "Dr. Crab".
A beautiful movie to look at, as well. Director Rob Marshall seems to have captured a Japanese sensibilty in scene and image, even when showing us the rarely seen mileu of pre-war Japan, where business suits and flapper frocks are already replacing the traditional kimono--at least outside the geisha world. The intrusion of American GI's after the war does indeed seem rough and shocking, as it must have seemed to those who were there.
One wonders what it would be like if our culture had the contemplation and creation of beauty as a real value, instead of thinking of beauty as a side-effect, a luxury, or merely an attribute to be lusted after. Make no mistake, I would not change our society even for modern Japan, where rigid adherence to heirarchy and "rules" is still in practice. And Japan's sexual mores, although perhaps more sensible than ours in some ways, are "icky" in others: for example, Constitutionally, the age of consent there is 13 (although individual prefectures can and have raised it)--which makes schoolgirl erotica more understandable, but still unpleasant to this eye. Ditto the repressive customs (in both worlds) that drive women to seek male "protectors". Geisha, as the story points out, do not consider themselves prostitutes or courtesans, but on the other hand, a junior geisha cannot be a full geisha until she has literally auctioned her virginity to the highest bidder, and to be truly successful, she will have to accquire a "danna"--what we in the West would vulgarly call a "sugar daddy." These are some of the secrets disclosed that initally drew Golden's book much criticism from the direction of Japan, but which are sensitively handled on film.
The film adapts Golden's novel well as far as it goes, but ends with Sayuri getting her danna, and does not cover their long relationship as the book does.
A beautiful and dramatic biographical movie. Leave the impatient and the adolescent at home.