directed by kenji mizoguchi

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.
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
Written by Yoshikata Yoda
Minosuke Bandō
Kinuyo Tanaka
Kōtarō Bandō
Hiroko Kawasaki
Toshiko Iizuka

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I just watched Gion no shimai/Sisters of the Gion, a short and tragic 1936 movie about two lower-class, struggling geisha sisters in the famous Gion area of Kyoto and the men in their lives.

The 1930s were a huge time of political and social change in Japan, and you can see a bit of this in the opposing personalities of Umekichi and Omocha. Kimono-favoring, traditional Umekichi believes in obligation, while trendy, Western-fashion fan Omocha is a “modern girl” and declares that men are the enemy.

Sisters of the Gion was directed by Kenji Mizoguchi and won Best Film of 1936. I got my copy from a local library but found it on Youtube, above, with English subtitles if any of my followers would like to watch!

I’d recommend it for people interested in geisha, kimono, life in 30s Japan, or just an inside look at one Japanese perspective on geisha.

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A rare jewel - Gion Bayashi full movie!

It’s one of my favourites (my rating: 10/10) movies ever, directed by great Kenji Mizoguchi. It’s the most authentic story about Gion Kobu’s geiko and maiko during Gion Matsuri (that’s why the theme song is Natsu wa Hotaru, traditional song for summer). This is how this world looked back in 1950’s, so watch it while it’s still on youtube ^^

Kinuyo Tanaka 1927 by Helen on Flickr.

“Fashion Queen of Nippon… Kinuyo Tanaka, popular Japanese star who as one of the principle fashion leaders in the Japanese Capitol, introduced this new style of headdress, which is now the rage in Tokyo.” E.F.S. May 22, 1927. Vintage press photograph by Sherwood and Sherwood. Kinuyo Tanaka was a leading lady from a young age, appearing in Yasujirō Ozu’s motion picture, “Graduated but…” in 1929 and later in 15 films directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, including “The Life of Oharu” in 1952 and “Ugestsu” in 1953. She became Japan’s second female Director in 1953.