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