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Sansho the Bailiff - Criterion Collection
Sansho the Bailiff - Criterion Collection
Actors: Kinuyo Tanaka, Yoshiaki Hanayagi, Ky˘ko Kagawa, Eitar˘ Shind˘, Akitake K˘no
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
UR     2007     2hr 4min



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Movie Details

Actors: Kinuyo Tanaka, Yoshiaki Hanayagi, Ky˘ko Kagawa, Eitar˘ Shind˘, Akitake K˘no
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi
Creators: Kazuo Miyagawa, Mitsuz˘ Miyata, Masaichi Nagata, Fuji Yahiro, Ogai Mori, Yoshikata Yoda
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Family Life
Studio: Criterion Collection
Format: DVD - Black and White,Full Screen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 05/22/2007
Original Release Date: 01/01/1955
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1955
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 2hr 4min
Screens: Black and White,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 16
Edition: Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Japanese
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A man without mercy is no man
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 03/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There is much praise heaped upon Mizoguchi Kenji's "Sansho the Bailiff," including the box cover calling it "one of the finest films ever made." I probably wouldn't go that far, but it is an excellent movie ranking amongst the best of the genre, standing tall with Kurosawa Akira films such as "Red Beard." It is very heavy, with a strong message.

Like Kurosawa, social responsibility is a strong theme in Mizoguchi's works. In "Sansho the Bailiff," we see a blending of the social classes, as an honest aristocrat is exiled, his wife sold to a brothel and his children made slaves, all because the aristocrat believed peasants deserved happiness as well, and that the aristocratic class had responsibilities to the peasants. Mixed together, you see cruelty and mercy amongst both classes, from the tyrannical Sansho and his friendly son Taro, or the martyred slave Namiji and the cruel Zushio willing to brand another slave on the head with a hot iron.

To this there is the message of mercy. "Be hard on yourself, but merciful to others" is the mantra passed from parent to child. A sacred image of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, is a family heirloom, passed down from generations as a reminder.

As in all Mizoguchi's films, it is ultimately the women who suffer, bearing the sins of men on their capable shoulders. Mizoguchi is considered a feminist in Japan, although the standards are different and most Americans would probably not consider "Sansho the Bailiff" a feminist film.

It is nice to see this important film get the Criterion treatment. Along with the usual pristine transfer and updated subtitles, a translated version of Ogai Mori's 1915 "Sansho Dayu," the story that inspired "Sansho the Bailiff," is also included.
Magnificent but harrowing
Ginny M | Dana Point, CA United States | 05/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I saw Sansho the Baliff some 30 years ago when it was required for a Japanese anthropology class I was taking in college. This is to alert readers to the fact that it was "positioned" not as entertainment but as source of insight into Japanese attitudes about various subjects. That is a good thing to bear in mind because while it is an excellent film in terms of acting, cinematography, plot, dialogue, etc. (hence the 5 stars) I suspect many Americans will not find it "entertaining." It is so harrowing to watch -- not because of violence but because of heart-rending situations -- that American viewers used to at least a bit of comic relief and/or "uplift," even in films billed as tragic, may be squirming. I still get shivers thinking about certain scenes or aspects of the story. Having said all that, I do not wish to give the impression that it is an "anthropology lesson" -- it is an extremely well-executed film shedding light on some aspects of the human condition."
Powerful film-making
Ginny M | 06/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you are looking for light entertainment, this is not the movie to get. But if you want a film that gives a powerful portrayal of human suffering and the quest for justice, then you might want to consider Sansho the Bailiff. The story has its roots in Japanese folklore. Another reviewer has already given the basic plot, so I won't waste time on that. All I can say is that this movie is both heart-wrenching and breathtakingly beautiful. I first saw this film some 30 years ago and many of the images still stick in my mind. The scene midway through the film where Zushio and his sister Anju pull down a tree branch (a reccurence of an earlier scene) is one of those magical moments in cinema. The overall camerawork in this movie is second to none. Note how Mizoguchi will sometimes have the camera zoom out or pan away from highly emotional scenes. A lesser director would probably zoom "in" to exploit the situation. It's as though Mizoguchi doesn't want us to become too emotionally attached. Perhaps he is telling us that suffering, as much as we may abhore it, is just a part of this transient life. Whether you agree with my interpretation is not important. This film can work for moviegoers on many levels. Just be prepared for a highly-charged experience, if you rent or buy this video."
So great, so beautiful!
Suzie Ikeda | Seattle, WA | 08/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Sansho Dayu" is so great and so beautiful. It is one of my very favorite films.

First of all, thank you so much, Andrew (reviewer below), for letting us know about the truly excellent Films Sans Frontieres DVD edition (which also comes with a beautiful DVD of Mizoguchi's superb film "Crucified Lovers"). I got so tired of waiting for Criterion to put out a DVD of this film that I went ahead and ordered the two-disc set from XploitedCinema and was not disappointed by the quality. I have now given away my lousy Home Vision VHS tape. Until Criterion steps up, the Films Sans Frontieres edition is definitely the one to own!

Second of all, even though the label says Region-Two PAL, I am pretty sure that the Films Sans Frontiere DVDs are actually REGION-FREE NTSC discs, because I can play them on my Region-One NTSC player without any problem at all. So I don't think Americans will need a Multi-Region player to watch these fine films. I bet they will play just fine on their standard Region-One DVD players.

Third of all, I just want to approve what everybody else has said about how great this film is. It is a truly beautiful experience that will shatter your heart. There is nobody like Mizoguchi and no film like "Sansho Dayu".

10 stars for the wonderful film, 1.5 stars for the crummy video tape. Instead you should definitely get the French DVDs (with English sub-titles) put out by Films Sans Frontieres, available in the U.S. from XploitedCinema. You won't regret it!