Geiko Girl BBCZ, Monday 21 Aug, 9.30pm.

Before saccharine-king Steven Spielberg has a chance to make sugar- coated sushi out of Arthur Golden's Memoirs Of A Geisha, Mick Csaky’s latest documentary offers a rare glimpse into the workings of Kyoto's oldest pleasure district.

Award-winning director Csaky was inspired to make a film about the experiences of the modern geisha or 'geiko’ (woman of art) following a meeting with Miniko twasaki, the retired geisha on whose life story Golden's bestseller is based. ’On talking to lwasaki-san, I realised that much of Golden's book was a fiction, set in an earlier era with little connection to the world of the geiko today,’ says Csaky. 'This prompted me to make a documentary about the real world of today’s geiko.’

Kick-starting his project proved to be a frustrating experience for the director as the Gion —- Kyoto’s network of traditional tea houses - proved to be almost as impenetrable as Fort Knox. Csaky found himself embarking on a tireless campaign of letter writing, involving various Ambassadors as well as the Gion union before his filming requests would be entertained.

Having gained the trust of pleasure-district luminaries, the director set about the search for a cast. 'I wanted to find a single tea house with its proprietor and several young girls working towards being highly successful geiko. I then wanted to select one girl from within the chosen tea house who would be my central character. My plan was to film her life over several months, to see how she related to her parents, to her fellow geiko and to her male clients.‘

Csaky's aspirations couldn’t have been more wholly realised. The featured tea house, the Tama, is home to 22- year-old Mamehisa who, at the film's opening, goes


Brave masterpiece or disgrace to humanity?

FILM The Idiots

came out of the \“/()()(l\.'\/()l‘l< eventually to hail the second [Jogme rnovre as an

Being a geiko means independence, wealth, high social standing and loads of free lippy

through a three-day graduation ceremony to become a fully fledged geiko. Using the bright, articulate Mamehisa as the film's focus, Csaky explores the appeal of the geiko lifestyle for today's young girls, with independence, the allure of wealth and high social standing appearing as strong motivating factors.

The film also attempts to illuminate the role of the modern geiko. According to Mamehisa's 'Gion Mother' Tama-san, convention, formality and tradition are as important within the Gion as the girls' relationships with their clients. Contrary to the popular notion that a geiko is nothing more than a beautifully decorated courtesan, the Gion is in fact a deeply conservative district, while the women undertake the role of untouchable hostess. ‘We always make it clear to our clients that sex is out of the question,’ insists Tama-san.

Though Csaky's film is often a little coy about the traditionally sexual nature of the geiko, it's an undeniably fascinating insight with an engaging character at its centre. (Allan Radcliffe)

honest depiction of a hypocritical soc iety

As part of the Access All Areas night looking at disabled Issues, Von Trier meets his critics in Pray/rig The Tool at it 05pm, before the film itself is shown For those unaware of the film's exrstence, The lcliots centres on a set of middle class twentysomething folk led by the unhinged Stoft’er rJens Albrnusi who attempt to seek answers to their inner demons, They do this by holing out in the country, occasionally surfacing to freak out the locals by 'spa//ing' around When the group is Joined by the meek Karen lB()(l|l Joi'gensenr, she upsets the spa/xers' methods and their solidarity comes under threat

The power in the film comes through some pretty astonishing performances whic h, alongside the doc u-drama style, may have the unaware vrevver trying to clec ide whether what they are watching is real or' not l‘l()\.’V(‘\/(‘l', you should he warned that the film ’WIll he

Channel 4, Sat 19 Aug, 11.35pm.

Initial reaction to Lars von lrier's The lclrots was decidedly split You either hated it or thought it was a doWiii‘ight disgrace to humanity But the fans

52 THE LIST 1/ 2‘1 Aug 2000

enlightened and brave masterpiece After the heat he drew from some been pleasantly shocked to find that some of those bac king his llllll were disabled groups, claiming that h:s movre was an

angles, the director must

screened in accordance With broadcasting i‘egulations' Which probably means that the shallow penetration shot has been snipped. ‘Bi‘ian Donaldson)

TV times

We put TV celebs on the couch. This issue: Geoffrey Palmer

Born The gracefully-aged Palmer was born on 4 June 1927, in LOndon of all places,

Big break A well-known face, if hardly a household name, Palmer's saggy chops have graced our screens for nigh on 30 years since hrs first major supporting role as Jimmy in The Fall Ancl Rise Of Regina/cl POW/Ii He became more firmly established in the nation's consciousness followrng his long-running turn as Wendy Craig‘s ever-reliable husband Ben in Carla Lane's Butterflies

Finest hour Despite havrng inspired some affection for his role in those ‘slarn in the lamb' adverts, Palmer reached a new plateau of fame starring opposite dimpled Dame Judi Dench in As Time Goes By. The ongoing rekindled romance between golden oldies Lionel and Jean has captivated audiences on both sides of the pond. And it's back lndeecl. Lionel and Jean are still followrng the path of true semi-contentrnent This week, Lionel is brooding about hzs pension plan after seeing friends up sticks for Spain With all the comforts that a middle England retired couple could need: Villa, gardeners, maids. lt's hardly Jimmy McGovern, but this is BBCl on a Sunday evening.

Little known fact Palmer is undoubtedly eager to forget his role as the Foreign Secretary in short-lived 80s sitcom Whoops Apocalypsel This politically-challengecl ’satire' featured the accidental destruc tron of Israel (luring an aerial bombardment on Iran. Sounds hilarious? It bombed

Not so little known fact The six/ling screen chem:stry between Palmer and uber-thesp Judi Denc h is enough to raise suspic ion in the mind of Dench’s real-life husband ractor Michael Williams). As well as bickering their way through an astonishing eight series of As Time Goes By, the pair have worked together on Mrs Brown and Tomorrow Never Dies

No relation to Jeffrey Dahmer, Laura Palmer, Droopy, Huntly ts} Palmer’s iced gems (Allan Radcliffe)

llll As Time Goes By, 88C], Sun, 9pm.