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HomeAwardsAward Contenders-Kate Biscoe & Noriko Watanabe-Makeup-Geisha

Award Contenders-Kate Biscoe & Noriko Watanabe-Makeup-Geisha


In Memoirs of a Geisha, we see the transformation of mortal girl to a geisha. The change is visibly evidenced by her oshiroi—the centuries-old white makeup still worn today by Kabuki actors. This transformative makeup technique carries the unadorned artist into her nighttime persona with a look defined by a painted white mask, with corners of the eyes dramatically outlined; a vivid painted red mouth, small and upturned; upper cheeks painted in pink; and the nape of the neck left exposed as bare skin with subtle v-shaped patterns. To add realism to this Western production of Memoirs of a Geisha, director Rob Marshall assembled a crack team of Japanese and American makeup artists, who joined forces to create the authenticity required to evoke this quintessentially Eastern look.Makeup department head Kate Biscoe, along with makeup designer Noriko Watanabe, assembled a team of 100 artists to be trained for this rigorous art. Unlike Watanabe, who learned traditional Eastern makeup techniques growing up in Japan, Biscoe had a steeper learning curve. But she immersed herself in the traditional art of oshiroi foundation, and was able to educate the rest of her team in such procedures as keeping the face oil-free and covering it with a perfect consistency of bintsuke abura to keep the foundation from falling off or looking uneven.During preproduction, Watanabe visited many geisha makeup artists and masters of Japanese dance to absorb the distinct geisha look. “Overall, my makeup design was about keeping the principles of authenticity and meaning of traditional geisha makeup, but we softened some parts and accentuated others—for example, the nape shape,” she said.For the male character Nobu’s scarred face, Biscoe and Watanabe deferred to prosthetic makeup artists Christian Tinsley and Ben Nye; and the character’s teeth were cast and made by Art Sakamoto. “We had a great and hard-working team on this movie. It was a wonderful collaboration of teamwork,” said Biscoe, who also this year worked as makeup department head on the Susan Stroman-directed The Producers.

Written by April MacIntyre

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