Utamaro o meguru gonin no onna (1946)
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- Utamaro and His Five Women
- 106 min.
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Based on a novel based on the life and work of one of Japan's most celebrated artists of the Edo period -you've likely seen his work if you've seen any Japanese prints at all - Utamaro and His Five Women is a dissection of art for art's sake, and of its treacherous muse, beauty. That beauty, for Utamaro, lies mainly in the spirit of women. He wants to draw them, they want to be drawn by him, one even gets painted on. His art creates ecstasy in some, outrage in others, and there's a delightful subplot about a duel between artists with interesting results. But as celebratory as it is, the quest for beauty is also seen as a curse, one that leads people astray, and in the final moments of the film, shows itself to be amoral. Everything is a subject, no judgement is rendered, it's all gristle for the mill. I will admit I should have been quicker to learn everyone's names because I was often playing catch up with the stories - a lot of people are essentially dressed and coiffed the same and I wasn't always sure who they were talking about. The existing print isn't always in the best shape either. But it never lost me for long.
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