Five Women Around Utamaro Screen 6 articles

Five Women Around Utamaro

1946

Five Women Around Utamaro Poster
  • Commonly regarded as a minor work, Five Women Around Utamaro offers, in fact, a highly complex reflection on the director’s art. While several viewings would probably be needed in order to determine whether it belongs with his highly distantiated masterpieces of the late Thirties and early Forties, or might more properly be regarded as an ambitious failure with an expressive intensity comparable to Montparnasse 19 or A King in New York, it clearly cannot be dismissed as an indifferent work.

  • Picasso’s Le Chef d’oeuvre inconnu is the key image, trenchantly enhanced when Utamaro uses Iizuka’s bare back as a canvas -- a Japanese feminist’s self-aware ode to all the heroines who have carried the famed male gaze on their shoulders.

  • “Utamaro and His Five Women” is among the cinema’s most incisive portraits of an artist as well as a clarion directorial credo... [Utamaro is] witness not merely to women’s physical beauty but to their pain, to the dependence and the mistreatment to which they’re relegated. And when, in despair, they burst their bonds in acts of self-destructive fury, the terrifying beauty of their gestures is more than mere inspiration for Utamaro’s, and Mizoguchi’s, art: it’s an artistic creation in itself.

  • In style it's much like Mizoguchi's later work, but less emotional, more formalised, more mysterious, and a great deal more daring aesthetically.

  • An intriguing analogy is presented by screenwriter, Yoshikata Yoda, in revealing that Utamaro's aesthetic perfectionism, personal indulgence, and emotional distance were modeled after Kenji Mizoguchi. As Utamaro finds solace in the ideas of his unrealized paintings amidst the chaos of his environment, Mizoguchi, too, perseveres through his imposed artistic limitations in Utamaro and His Five Women, his only film during this period of uncertainty.

  • ...More recent re-evaluations (e.g. that of Kirihara) have found the film especially interesting as a reflection of the historical tensions of the era. The confusion and dispersion of the film’s narration, which the scriptwriter considered weaknesses that he was responsible for, no longer jar but, on the contrary, strike a modernist note. Many critics have also been attracted by the game of spotting the similarities between the film’s protagonist, Utamaro, and its director, Mizoguchi.

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