"In the years before World War II, a Japanese child is torn from her penniless family to work as a geisha house. Despite a treacherous rival who nearly breaks her spirit, the girl blossoms into the legendary geisha Sayuri. Beautiful and accomplished, Sayuri captivates the most powerful men of her day, but is haunted by her secret love for the one man beyond her reach. " http://movies.yahoo.com
NOTE: This Spoiler was sent in by Ted Lin, Los Angeles who says..."The movie was extremely long, so my spoiler will be long as well, bare with me, it's a great movie, and I tried my best to depict the entire image in words, but I really recommend you all to see the movie for it's stunning visuals and cinematography.
Throughout the movie, there are occasional narrations from what appears to be Chiyo narrating her life story, but in an old woman's voice. And the period of this film should be just around the Second World War, which was hinted during the movie.
The movie start with a poor Japanese village by the beach, and it was raining hard (which happens a lot throughout the film). An old man was speaking Japanese to a visitor, and after a couple lines of dialogue without subtitles, he goes into his hut and gathered his two daughters, one is older, and the younger one is 9, who we know is named Chiyo and has blue eyes. Besides them, there was a mother that appears really sick, and they had to send (I think sell) their daughters to the visitor. As they are put in a wagon without cover, they were taken to a city and given to the old lady, the old lady looked at them both, and said the that country girls are such bad qualities, but she will take the younger one (Chiyo), as the older sister was forced away with the man.
Chiyo was crying and screaming, but was taken to the attic and kept with another girl named Pumpkin, and from then, they became great friends and Pumpkin guided her around the rules and tradition of The House. In the house, there is The Mother, who appears to own the house and works the financial papers; there is the Granny, who takes care of the errands around the house, and there's Hatsumomo, (played by Gong Li) who is the Geisha of the house. Apparently, a Geisha is a girl that is trained and brought up to do traditional dance and song and accompany rich and powerful Japanese men, but in a very classy and elegant sense. And Hatsumomo has been the Geisha of this house (which other houses compete with their Geishas).
But Hatsumomo is like the Evil Stepsister of the house. She never liked Chiyo, who supposedly has the potential to become a fine Geisha in the future. And Hatsumomo sees this, and gets Chiyo in trouble periodically. One time, Chiyo was forced to paint on a very expensive Kimono (Japanese traditional dress) that belongs to Mameha (plays by Michelle Yeoh), who is supposedly the competition of Hatsumomo's house; Chiyo got whipped and punished for that. Anyway, Chiyo works as a little housekeeper at the house with Pumpkin, cleaning, serving and all that; and occasionally, she would secretly follow Hatsumomo to restaurants and bars to see what she does, and that gave Chiyo first glance at the life of a Geisha. And Chiyo and Pumpkin also have their daily lessons at a school to learn to become Geishas.
Chiyo is still not accepting to be part of the house; she still tries to escape and still tries to find her sister. In attempt to get rid of Chiyo, Hatsumomo told Chiyo where her sister would be at, and when they finally reunite, the sister were actually working as a sex slave, and told Chiyo to be quiet and to meet her at the dock at sunset the next day. And they parted quietly.
That night, while raining hard, Chiyo accidentally saw Hatsumomo having sex with a low-class man. This was important because Geisha's are not supposed to give themselves to random man, but only the man that bids the highest amount of money for their virginity, and Hatsumomo seems to like sleeping around with any man. Moving on, Chiyo's discovery made a big disturbance, while the man jumped up and ran away, only to wake The Mother and Granny. In haste, Hatsumomo stuck a scarf into Chiyo's chest, and just in time to show the Mother that Chiyo was actually stealing. Chiyo was immediately whipped, and she cried that she saw Hatsumomo with a man right here. The Mother then have Granny lock Hatsumomo down and discovered, (physically), that Chiyo is telling the truth. The Mother slapped Hatsumomo, and said that she would never see that boy that she loves again. And then asked the Granny to bolt all doors and windows.
Of course, with the doors and windows all bolted, Chiyo's plan to escape with her sister will be obstructed. So the next day, with the sun setting, Chiyo climbed up the roofs, and jumped from house to house, dangerously to the dock. But by the time she got there, it was already too late, the boat has sailed, and she knew her sister didn't wait for her. In a distress, Chiyo lost her grip and fell off the roof.
Next we see Chiyo waking up to a doctor, and the Mother next to her, paying the bills. Here, Chiyo was told that the sister left without her, and that there were things send for her from her village. It was two boards that symbolized the death of both her parents, with a letter explaining so. So Chiyo then realize there is no one else for her, except the Mother, but here's the thing, the Mother was furious with the bills. First the Mother bought Chiyo from her parents, then she had to provide room and board for her, and even send her to Geisha school, and now there is an expensive bill from the doctor. The Mother decided to have Chiyo works as a slave only, and that will help her repay her debt. Chiyo cries herself to sleep and accepts it.
One day, when Chiyo ran an errand for Hatsumomo, she rested at a bridge and daydreamed, until a gentleman walked by and introduced himself as the Chairman (played by Ken Watanabe). He asked if she fell and was sitting there, and Chiyo kept quiet, but admired the two Geishas around the Chairman. The Chairman then bought Chiyo an ice cream and asked her to smile. He admired her blue eyes, and told her if she fell again next time, she has to stand up immediately. And as he left, he also left a long lasting impression in Chiyo's heart. Chiyo kept his handkerchief and ran back home really happily, as if she found the goal to reach for: To be a Geisha, so that she can see the Chairman again someday.
Travel through time, we come to a scene maybe 6 or 7 years later, where Pumpkin was being prepared to be taken out as the new Geisha, while Chiyo (now played by Zhang Ziyi) helps her dress. Hatsumomo is still the same, but it seems like she has taken Pumpkin under her wing and letting her tag along on all occasions. Chiyo was still working as the same housekeeper, until a day when Mameha visited. Mameha made a deal with the Mother, claiming that she wants to train Chiyo to become the next up and coming Geisha. Mother was hesitating, until Mameha gave her a deal that she can't resist. Mameha made a deal that if Chiyo doesn't repay the debts within the sixth months of her coming out in this business; she will pay her double the money back.
From here on, we see Mameha patiently train Chiyo to become a graceful Geisha. From the way they walk, sit, and drink tea. All the little tricks such as hand gestures and accidental touches, all to drive men crazy. Chiyo worked on her song and dance, and finally were ready to go out and start working. She was given the name Sayuri from now on, and was still new to the game, so Mameha will tell her to do things that she'll do without any questions, all to become the top Geisha in Japan.
Life wasn't that easy being a Geisha, there's competitions and making sure that you protect your clients. Hatsumomo plays that competition real well, and was always trying to stab Sayuri in the back in front of clients. Worst is the spreading of the rumors, claiming that Sayuri brings different men home every night and isn't a virgin anymore. And being a virgin is the most valuable thing as a Geisha.
As Sayuri shakes off rumors, and work her way up all the way to higher class clients, such as Mr. Nobu. But Mr. Nobu happens to be the Chairman's best friend, and even saved his life once, so the Chairman will do anything to make Nobu happy. But Nobu dislikes Geisha's, saying they corrupt their minds and make them misjudge great decisions of life. But he has a thing for Sayuri, and was becoming fonder of her.
That is when Sayuri started to become the most famous Geisha in Japan. She was even appointed to play the lead role in a traditional dance event. And her performance was so amazing, that all the men were in love with her, and all the other Geishas were jealous of her, including Hatsumomo.
In some scenes, Sayuri was told by Mameha to hand out a plum inside a box to big clients. This symbolizes her virginity is up for bid, and only the highest bidder gets to have that. Of course, being a famous Geisha now, her value sky-rocked, only to be interfered by Hatsumomo. With Hatsumomo as the puppeteer, she asked the Baron (played by Cary Hiroyuki- Tagawa) who is also a big client to invite her to his cherry blossom field. With Mameha held up by previous engagement, Sayuri was vulnerable and was defenseless. While Sayuri was talking to the Chairman, the man of her dreams, she was interrupted and taken away by the Baron, who said to have a surprise for her. She stupidly, actually, naively walked into a closed room with the Baron, where a really pretty silk kimono was placed as the gift for Sayuri. Only the Baron asked Sayuri to try on the dress immediately in front of her. As she started to feel the threat, it was too late. The Baron forcefully undressed Sayuri, all till she was naked and crying on the floor. No matter how she struggled and begged, it appears that she was going to get raped. But the Baron stopped, and said he only wanted to see her naked. But the damage was done, words has spread that she was undressed in a room with a man, and her value would drop on the market.
Mameha was furious to hear about the news, she didn't believe Sayuri that nothing happened, and she yelled at her for not being more careful. As the deadline for her bidding approaches, Sayuri could only think about the Chairman. She still prays to be his Geisha someday.
Next we see Mameha on the phone, with Hatsumomo gloating in the back claiming that Sayuri will not get a penny for her virginity. Saying that the less attractive Pumpkin would get a better price. But as Mameha hands the note of the final bidding price to the Mother, the Mother was stunned; apparently, Sayuri has set the record for the highest bid in Geisha history. With the amount of money, the Mother changed her mind, and told Mameha that she is adopting Sayuri as her daughter instead of Pumpkin. That got Mameha, Hatsumomo and Pumpkin mad. But the Mother said that they need Sayuri because Hatsumomo was getting old, and Pumpkin was so unpopular that she can't get any clients. So Mameha accepted that and left.
Sayuri chased after Mameha and learned that the highest bid was actually from the Baron, but instead, she gave it to the second place so that Sayuri will not have to face the man who humiliated her. Also here, Memeha apologized to Sayuri for not being there to protect her, and that she believed her, because if the Baron really had touched her, he wouldn't make the trouble of bidding such a high amount. And then they went their separate ways as Sayuri is seen giving her first time to the man that paid for it.
Hatsumomo was drunk and jealous, and in a fight with Sayuri at the house after threatening to destroy Mr. Chairman's handkerchief, the house was burnt down, and Hatsumomo was never seen again.
Then another period goes by, the war came around the neighborhood. All the children and women were going to Osaka for protection. That was when the Chairman came looking for Sayuri, and sent her to a village that will be safe for her on behalf of Mr. Nobu. Sayuri followed and was sent to a village working hard labor to kill time. Then I believe it was another two years, Mr. Nobu came all the way to ask Sayuri to return. Apparently, they are working a deal with the Americans now, and they will need all the help they can to get that contract signed. Sayuri agreed.
But the place was no longer the same as it was before. Americans have taken over the place, and the culture seemed lost. Any girl with a kimono calls herself Geisha now and there was no traditional dance or elegant postures, only drinking and sex. Sayuri met up with Mameha to borrow a kimono, and also ran into Pumpkin, who is now having a good time with all the American soldiers. They caught up a bit, and were sent to meet with the general that Nobu and Chairman are trying to suck up to.
The General loves Sayuri, and asked to have private meetings with her but she declined, but seeing them chatting really upsets Mr. Nobu. Mr. Nobu told Sayuri that he didn't know she would do that behind her back, saying she had driven him crazy and he is really in love with her. But knowing that she only wants the Chairman, and in order to be with him, she has to get rid of Mr. Nobu. So Sayuri came up with a plan, she wants Mr. Nobu to see her with the General, and then he will be heartbroken and possibly give up on her.
So that night, Sayuri asks Pumpkin to bring Mr. Nobu to the room at 9 pm sharp, and there is a surprise for him. Sayuri invited the General and immediately makes him get on top of her naked, she stopped him and asked him to continue, all so that the timing could be perfect. Then when the door opens, it was the Chairman instead, and he was really disappointed and sad. With Sayuri chasing after him, the Chairman was disappointed, and we sense that he has a lot of feelings for her too, and he left. Sayuri confronted Pumpkin how could she do that to her, and Pumpkin said I wanted you to feel what I felt, when I can't get what I wanted. Meaning her dream of becoming a Geisha was trashed when Sayuri was named the adopted daughter to the house.
Sayuri was crying, and was seen standing on a cliff. She knew her chance with the Chairman was done, and she decided to let it go, and throwing the handkerchief he gave her away symbolizes that.
Next we see Sayuri getting the news that Mr. Nobu has invited her to see him at a garden. Apparently, he is going to be her Dona, which in present term is sugar daddy, and he will have her by his side. When she stood in the garden all dressed, the man that approached her was actually Mr. Chairman. The entire invitation was arranged by the Chairman. He finally decided to express his feelings towards Sayuri, and said that he didn't care about what happened before, but he wants her now. He explained that from the first moment he saw her (when she was child) on the bridge, he called Mameha to make arrangements and try and train Sayuri to become a geisha, just so that he can be with her. But he was unable to because he owes Mr. Nobu his life, and he is willing to step aside seeing Mr. Nobu showed so much interests in Sayuri. But now with Mr. Nobu knowing about the incident with the General, he never wanted to see Sayuri again, and the Chairman can finally come clean.
So we see them both cry and kiss and finally be together in this beautiful garden. As they walk away, the scene fades to a previous scene, when we see little Chiyo running happily, after seeing the Chairman for the first time.
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