Zhang Ziyi as Chiyo Sakamoto/Sayuri Nitta, Gong Li as Hatsumomo, and Michelle Yeoh as Mameha, are absolutely beautiful. Apparently, one of the criticisms of the film is these are popular Chinese actresses, not Japanese. They played the parts of the three leading roles as competing geishas. Ken Watanahe as Chairman Iwamura, is also gorgeous. The acting is good, with the direction moulding the film into a beautiful whole.
The physical beauty of the characters is an important factor in this romanticized version of the life of a Geisha. We are taken into a world that we otherwise would not know. It's not a pretty world: a world of exploitation of women to fulfil the needs of men; a world often of no choices for the Geisha. They were not prostitutes, but, rather, entertainers. Although this film didn't emphasis that role, in fact, the Geisha often trained in dancing and playing musical instruments, to add to their other talents. Obviously, there would have been many varieties of Geisha, some more formal than others. In Memoirs of a Geisha, the women are little more than prostitutes, struggling to survive. The American soldiers with whom they came in contact, certainly adopted that attitude.
The film is a feast of beauty for the eyes and ears, and has a happy ending. I was left with the feeling that I had enjoyed Art, but Art created from a particularly sordid subject.