Samurai Geisha
Year:  1969
Director: Mori Kazuo

Aka - Chivalrous Geisha

Aka - Nihon jokyo-den: kyokaku geisha

The title I watched it under is Samurai Geisha which is more than a little misleading. For one thing by the end of the Meiji era (1912) when this film takes place the Samurai had been banned (1876) and secondly the title character never picks up a sword. The alternative title makes much more sense - Chivalrous Geisha. Shinji (the glorious Junko Fuji) works in a high class geisha house where they only entertain the elite customers with their song and dances - and of course themselves. Having been there since she was sold at the age of ten, she has become a Big Sister to all the girls - the Hakata Geisha House - and what she says, goes. She solves all their problems, helps runaway brothel girls, stands up to the local Yakuza and the coal baron who is trying to buy out all the small mines. Not with a sword though but with charm, grace and the promise of more to come. As she later tells the hero of the film after he tells her of his past misdeeds, I have been with many men, all my scars are inside me.

The hero Shimada is one of those small coal managers who took over the mountain when his boss died and is keeping it going for his boss's daughter. He is played by Junko Fuji's co-star in many Toei films of the 1960''s - Takakura Ken. They make a wonderful pairing. As their characters slowly fall in last chance love, the trouble between the coal magnate and Shimada escalates slowly as well until we have one of those classic Takakua Ken bloody endings. This final fight is interspersed with flashes of Shinji performing in white faced Kabuki style with flaming red hair - knowing the man she loves is likely to be killed.

But for the most part this is a drama and much of the time is spent in the workings of the Geisha House - the getting ready, the call that a customer is waiting to drink with her, the flirting, the games, the entertainment in which Shinji performs a few songs. To Westerners this is such a strange world that feels almost make believe - lovely women adorned in a kimono pouring drinks, making conversation for men. A good film though a little more action would have been welcome as the title set me up for more - but very different than I was expecting. The General is played by a nearly unrecognizable Tomisaburô Wakayama.