Utamaro and His Five Women
(Utamaro o Meguru Gonin no Onna)

Screening on Film
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi.
With Minosuke Bando, Kinuyo Tanaka, Kotaro Bando.
Japan, 1946, 35mm, black & white, 95 min.
Japanese with English subtitles.
Print source: Janus Films

Yoshikata Yoda would later admit basing his vision of legendary 17th Century artist Kitagawa Utamaro on Mizoguchi, channeling into his mesmerizing portrait the filmmaker’s reverential worship of the gentle sex, and his troubled, often tumultuous relationship with women, and geisha in particular. Among Mizoguchi’s most erotic works, Utamaro and His Five Women brings a raw sensuality into its masterful study of the creative process which makes vivid both the unbridled elation and darkest frustrations which buoyed and unsettled the famed master of the bijin-ga, ukiyo-e woodblock portraits of beautiful women. Despite the great scrutiny given to period films by the US Occupational Force, who were determined to dampen any nationalist imagery or ideals in the cinema, Mizoguchi was given carte blanche for his ambitious and richly detailed recreation of Utamaro’s world. 

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The Tales and Tragedies of Kenji Mizoguchi