Utamaro and His Five Women
|Utamaro and His Five Women|
|Directed by||Kenji Mizoguchi|
|Written by||Yoshikata Yoda|
|Editing by||Shintarō Miyamoto|
|Release dates||17 December 1946|
|Running time||106 min.|
Utamaro and His Five Women or Five Women Around Utamaro (Utamaro o meguru gonin no onna) is a 1946 Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. It is based on the novel of the same title by Kanji Kunieda, itself a fictionalized account of the life of printmaker Kitagawa Utamaro. It was Mizoguchi's first film made under the American occupation.
Mizoguchi was fascinated by painting and had trained as a painter as a young man. Kitagawa Utamaro (1756-1806) was 'possibly the greatest of all the portraitists of the floating world' - he painted also idyllic outdoor scenes, Yoshiwara festivals and drinking bouts, bathers and shell-divers, as well as erotica. The film dramatically presents this sense of range, and openness to life's variety, and contrasts the old official court-approved style of painting, called kano with the new, dynamic form of painting known as ukiyo-e (literally:paintings of the floating world).
Seinosuke (Kotaro Bando), a samurai appeenticed to a kano master, visits an Edo print shop where he sees a painting by Utamaro that boasts of ukiyo-e 's superiority to the official style. Enraged, he goes to a brothel where Utamaro is with his friends, and challenges him to a duel. Utamaro counterchallenges him with a different kind of duel - a contest of painting. 
Utamaro and His Five Women was made during the 7-year Allied occupation of Japan which followed World War II. At the time, film production was overseen by representatives of the Occupation forces, and Jidaigeki (period films) like Utamaro were rarely made, as they were seen as being inherently nationalistic or militaristic.
The Film as Autobiography
"Mizoguchi's regular scriptwriter Yoda, who worked with him (more precisely, for him) for 20 years, claimed in his memoirs that in the script for this film he was 'almost unconsciously' drawing a portrait of Mizoguchi through Utamaro. The equation Utamaro=Mizoguchi has been irresistible to most critics as the two artists did have a lot in common. Both of them worked in a popular mass-produced medium operated by businessmen, and chafed under oppressive censorship regimes; both frequented the pleasure quarters and sought the company of geishas; but, most significantly, they both achieved fame for their portraits of women. In a highly charged scene in this film, Utamaro paints, directly on the back of a beautiful courtesan, a sketch that is later tattooed into her skin. One could say that this creative act (and the passion the artist displays in executing it) literalises the fact that both artists achieved fame on the backs of women – relying on them to arouse and express themselves, emotionally and aesthetically."
- Mark Le Fanu, Mizoguchi and Japan, p.12
- Utamaro and his Five Women, by Freda Freiberg
- Rotten Tomatoes: Utamaro and His Five Women Synopsis
- Distant Observer: Films of Kenji Mizoguchi
- Cinematheque Ontario:UTAMARO AND HIS FIVE WOMEN
- Utamaro and his Five Women, by Freda Freiberg at Senses of Cinema
- Utamaro and His Five Women at the Internet Movie Database