Utamaro and His Five Women ★★★½

Made early in the American occupation of Japan, this is a reverent but largely fictional exploration of 18th century Japanese artist and woodblock printmaker Kitagawa Utamaro, whose titular "five women" aren't actually "his" but are just various models and acquaintances swirling around him. (Another bad title translation from the vintage days of cinephilia, I'm assuming.) The film is mostly about the community of hangers-on in Utamaro's orbit, and there are only a few scenes dedicated to his work and methodology, but plenty of time for bickering over tangentially related sex lives. It's a more lustful narrative than usual for Mizoguchi, which isn't necessarily a problem, but the overwhelming number of characters and subplots is; the film is far more busy and confusing than it needs to be, and at the expense of really allowing us intimacy with Utamaro as a character until its final moments. But as you'd expect, it's gorgeous to look at, and clearly born of passion.

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