Memoirs of a Geisha is a 2005 film adaptation of the novel of the same name, produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and Spyglass Entertainment and by Douglas Wick's Red Wagon Productions. It was directed by Rob Marshall. It was released in the United States on December 9, 2005 by Columbia Pictures and DreamWorks. It stars Zhang Ziyi, Ken Watanabe, Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh, Youki Kudoh, and Suzuka Ohgo. Ohgo plays the younger Sayuri in the movie, which was filmed in southern and northern California and in several locations in Kyoto, including the Kiyomizu temple and the Fushimi Inari shrine.
Memoirs of a Geisha tells the story of a young girl, Chiyo, who is sold into the life of a geisha and her struggle as a geisha to find love, in the process making a lot of enemies.
The film was nominated and won numerous awards, including nominations for six Academy Awards, and eventually won three: Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.
The Japanese release of the film was titled "Sayuri", based on the main character who was renamed as Sayuri in the movie.
The film, set in Japan during the Showa Era, tells the story of Chiyo Sakamoto (portrayed by Suzuka Ohgo as a child, and by Zhang Ziyi as an adult), who is sold into a life of servitude by her parents when she is nine years old. Chiyo is taken in by the proprietress of a geisha house, Mother (Kaori Momoi), where she works to pay off the debt of her purchase and the soiling of a silk kimono owned by a well-known geisha, Mameha (Michelle Yeoh), which Chiyo was blackmailed into defacing by another geisha, Hatsumomo (Gong Li).
One day while crying in the street, the young Chiyo is noticed by the Chairman (Ken Watanabe), who buys her an iced sorbet (kakig?ri) and gives her his handkerchief. Inspired by his act of kindness, Chiyo resolves to become a geisha so that she may one day become a part of the Chairman’s life. Chiyo, now a young woman, is taken under the wing of Mameha, a rival geisha. Under Mameha's tutelage, the girl Chiyo becomes Sayuri, the most famous geisha in all Gion, Kyoto. Hatsumomo becomes Sayuri's rival and seeks to destroy her; however, Hatsumomo ends up destroying herself instead after setting fire to the okiya.
Sayuri, through her work as a geisha, is reunited with the Chairman, whom she has secretly loved since she was a girl, although she is led to believe he has no memory of who she was before she became a geisha. Her prosperous life is cut short by the outbreak of World War II and while the safety of Sayuri and Mameha is ensured by the Chairman, they must endure a life of hard labour. After the war, Sayuri is reunited with Mameha, and they become geisha once more.
The Chairman arranges to meet Sayuri, where he finally reveals to her that he knows she is Chiyo. He tells her that he was responsible for sending Mameha to her so that she may fulfill her dreams of becoming a geisha. Sayuri finally reveals her love to the Chairman, which she has been harbouring for over fifteen years. The film ends with their loving embrace and a stroll through a beautiful Japanese garden with waterfalls and rocks.