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Utamaro and His Five Women

January 26, 2015 - 7:30 pm

Utamaro and His Five Women  (Japan, 1946)

Utamaro o Meguru Gonin no Onna

Woodblock print-master Utamaro shuts out the turbulence of the rambunctious 17th-century Edo period by painstakingly and conscientiously practicing his art, with the help of five selflessly devoted models.  The outside world refuses to be ignored, though, and an incensed local magistrate devises a particularly insidious punishment for Utamaro by banning him from drawing for 50 days—here there is an echo of director Kenji Mizoguchi’s own struggles for creative freedom under both the censorious wartime government and the American Occupation.  This artistic self-portrait is a key illustration of Mizoguchi’s theme of sacrifice: of women for men, and of creator for creation.

Shochiku Co. Ltd.  Director: Kenji Mizoguchi.  Screenwriter: Yoshikata Yoda.  Based on the novel by Kanji Kunieda.  Cinematographer: Shigeto Miki.  Editor: Shintarô Miyamoto.  Cast: Minosuke Bando, Kinuyo Tanaka, Kotaro Bando, Hiroko Kawasaki, Toshiko Iizuka.  35mm, b/w, in Japanese with English subtitles, 95 min.

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