I recently opened my mailbox to find a peony-pink envelope from Fresh cosmetics, advertising a new collection of beauty products "inspired by the film 'Memoirs of a Geisha.'" The direct-mail campaign includes a coupon for the new line, and the suggestion that I call to reserve an appointment for a "Fresh 'Modern Geisha' makeover."
Good thing they specified "modern"! I mean, historically, Japanese geishas were paid consorts (though not prostitutes), instructed in traditional music and dance, done up in stark white face makeup, all to please and entertain the men who frequented the teahouses where they worked. The geisha's craft has a fascinating and complex history, but perhaps not one that a cosmetics company would want to casually draw on in a call to inner beauty.
Catching a trailer for "Memoirs of a Geisha," adapted from Arthur Golden's book of the same name, some nights later, I wondered again if there was perhaps some sort of communication disconnect between the people at Fresh and the filmmakers. Where the Fresh Web site focused on how its geisha line -- including "Rice Face Wash," "Bath With Sake" and "Shimmer Powder With Crushed Pearl" -- was born of "the serenity and inner beauty found in Japanese culture and tradition," the movie's preview didn't look so serene.
There are scenes of the story's heroine -- Chiyo, later the geisha Sayuri -- getting sold to a geisha house where she is abused by her keepers. She is informed by a woman about her age: "Now, we are rivals." I couldn't tell from the preview if the movie will include the stirring sequence from the book in which Sayuri's virginity is sold as part of a ritual known as "mizuage," but there were clips of some inspiring dialogue, spoken by Sayuri's mentor, Mameha, played by the (totally stunning) Michelle Yeoh. "We do not become geisha to pursue our own destinies!" chides Mameha, who also informs her that "The true geisha can stop a man in his tracks with a single look" and promises that one day, Sayuri will be "the object of every man's fantasy."
Must be the Shimmer Powder.