I first saw this special when it aired on A&E. Being fascinated by the geisha culture of Kyoto and having read every book on the subject in print, I was eager to see what new information it might provide me.
Sadly, there wasn't much new to me in this video. However, for the beginner, it is a suitable primer to geisha culture.
The firsthand behind-the-scenes look into the geisha districts is also worthwhile for geisha scholars of any stripe.
It was interesting to see Liza Dalby (the only American -- or any foreigener for that matter -- to become a geisha) and hear her speak on the subject, though she provided no information that was not to be found in her excellent book "Geisha" or any other recent books on the subject. Still, for the beginner it may well be a trove of new knowledge.
Arthur Golden, the author of the novel "Memoirs of a Geisha," also speaks throughout the program; however, and perhaps this was due in part to the way the show was edited, he came across as somewhat pervy, between the discussion about geisha and sex and his smirking about the eroticism of the maiko's momoware hairstyle.
The most annoying aspect of the production to me was the narration by Susan Sarandon. Her pronunciation was terrible [I'm sure she doesn't speak Japanese, but couldn't they have either found someone familiar with the language or coached her a little more in the way to say the words?] and she often sounded stilted or forced in her attempt to cultivate a pleasing voice for the narration.
Overall, this may not be the finest look into the life of geisha, but it's servicable and deserves a look if you take an interest in the subject matter.