Western Libraries and Pickford Film Center co-sponsor Masters of Japanese Cinema series

Masters of Japanese Cinema  continues tonight  at 6:30 at the Pickford Film Center with Utamaro and his Five Women, Mizoguchi Kenji’s portrait of the famous ukiyo-e painter Kitagawa Utamaro and the social world around him in 18th century Edo (Tokyo).

Co-sponsored by Western Libraries and the Pickford Film Center, the Masters of Japanese Cinema series is one of the Pickford's longest running and most loved series. Jeff Purdue, who is both a librarian at Western and also the series curator, consistently selects some of the best films in World Cinema, featuring movies that span both decades and genres.

Utamaro and His Five Women is the second film that Mizoguchi made after the end of World War II, a time when the Japanese film industry was under strict control of occupation authorities.  Period films in general were frowned upon, but according to Donald Richie and Joseph Anderson (authors of the book, The Japanese Film: Art and Industry), Mizoguchi was able to get permission to make Utamaro by promising to make another film about women’s rights.  That film, The Victory of Women, came out first in spring, 1946, with Utamaro coming out at the end of that year.

Utamaro has often been considered to be a slightly autobiographical testament: in addition to filmmaking, Mizoguchi studied painting.  There is a spirit of fun in the film, but it also explores, with sensitivity, the diminished social status of women.  This sensitivity is present in nearly all of Mizoguchi’s films, whether they are modern or period dramas.

Each film in the series begins with an introduction from select speakers including local professors, artists, and educators.  Tonight’s film will be introduced by Julia Sapin, a professor of Art History at Western whose research focuses on the intersections of art and design in Japan during the Meiji period (1868-1912).  She teaches a wide range of courses on Asian and Pacific art history, and is chair of the Art Department.