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386 - Sansho the Bailiff


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#1 marcusbulbous76

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 10:04 AM

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SANSHO THE BAILIFF
Kenji Mizoguchi

Japan • 1954 • 124 minutes • Black and White • 1.33:1 • Japanese
When an idealistic governor disobeys the reigning feudal lord, he is cast into exile, his wife and children left to fend for themselves and eventually wrenched apart by vicious slave traders. Under Kenji Mizoguchi's dazzling direction, this classic Japanese story became one of cinema's greatest masterpieces, a monumental, empathetic expression of human resilience in the face of evil.


DISC FEATURES

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • Audio commentary by Japanese-literature professor Jeffrey Angles
  • New video interviews with critic Tadao Sato, assistant director Tokuzo Tanaka, and legendary actress Kyoko Kagawa on the making of the film and its lasting importance
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A book featuring an essay by scholar Mark Le Fanu and two versions of the story on which the film was based—Ogai Mori's 1915 "Sansho Dayu," in an acclaimed translation by J. Thomas Rimer, and a written form of an earlier oral variation, in a new English translation


#2 marcusbulbous76

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Posted 25 February 2009 - 10:04 AM

NOTES:

#3 Ian

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Posted 23 December 2009 - 06:19 PM

This was probably my favorite Criterion purchase this year besides the Eric Rohmer box. This film in some ways reminds me of The Virgin Spring where it tells this powerful dark fairy tale set in an undated, pastoral/medieval time.

Sansho the Bailiff is such an emotionally gripping film. There are so many scenes that filled me with a sense of despair and dread. The horrors and filth endured by the slaves at the county manor, the death scenes of various characters, the priestess tricking the mother into losing her children. I think the ending in which the son finds his blind mother hit me the hardest. Wow.

The compositions are amazing. In full frame Mizoguchi captures as much epic sweeps of endless lakes and giant valleys and sprawling forests as any widescreen film.

Can't wait to tear through the supplemental material. (Not that there is all that much)

#4 marcusbulbous76

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Posted 23 December 2009 - 07:22 PM

The inclusion of the story in the booklet is a fantastic supplement. Kind of a dying practice for Criterion these days, sadly.

The cut from the daughter slowly walking to her death into the water to the old woman praying nearby is perhaps the most devastatingly beautiful cut I've ever seen. I don't know why it has that effect on me exactly, something to do with evoking the suffering inherent in all life. I love Sansho the Bailiff dearly.

#5 Lawrence

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Posted 24 December 2009 - 12:10 AM

^
It's been a while since I watched this, but I felt the same way as you Ian on my first viewing. This was my first taste of Mizoguchi and ever since then I've been seeing as much by him as I can get my hands on (well within reason obviously). As well as the above scenes the boat segment is about as powerful as film gets for me.
Ian have you seen the Mizoguchi Eclipse set? It's one of the better ones (i.e. not one duff film).

1 2r 3r 4r 5 6r 7 8 9 10r 11r 12 13 14r 15r 16r 17r 18r 19r 20 21 22 23 24r 25 26 27 28 29r 30r 31 32 33 35r 36 37 38r 39r 40 41 42 43 44 44r 45 46 47 48r 49 51 52r 53r 54 55 56 56r 57r 58 59 60 61 62 63 64r 65 66 67 68 69 70 72 73 74 75 76 76r 77 78 79 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 93r 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112r 113 114 115 116 116r 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 204 205 206 207 208 209 210 211 212 213 214 215 216 217 218 219 220 222 223 224 225 226 227 228 229 230 231 232 233 234 235 236 237 238 239 240 241 242 243 244 245 246 247 248 249 250 251 252 253 254 255 256 257 258 259 260 261 262 263 264 265 266 267 268 269 270 271 272 273 274 275 276 277 278 279 280 281 282 283 284 285 286 287 288 289 290 291 292 293 294 295 296 297 298 299 300 301 302 303 304 305 306 307 308 309 310 311 312 313 314 315 316 317 319 320 321 322 323 324 325 326 327 328 329 330 331 332 333 334 335 336 337 338 340 341 342 343 344 345 346 347 348 349 350 351 352 353 354 355 356 357 358 359 360 361 362 363 364 365 366 367 368 369 370 371 372 373 374 375 376 377 378 379 380 381 382 383 384 385 386 387 388 391 392 393 394 395396 397 398 399 400 401 402 403 404 405 406 407 408 409 410 411 412 413 414 415 416 417 418 419 420 421 422 423 424 425 426 427 428 429 430 431 432 433 434 435 436 437 438 439 440 441 442 443 444 445 446 447 448 449 450 451 452 453 455 456 457 458 459 460 461 462 463 464 465 466 467 468 469 470 471 472 473 474 475 476 477 478 479 480 481 482 483 484 485 486 487 488 489 490 491 493 494 495 496 497 498 499 500 501 502 503 504 505 506 507 508 509 510 511 514 515 516 519 521 522 523 524 525 526 528 529 530 531 532 533 534 535 536 537 538 539 540 541 542 543 544 545 546 547 548 549 550 551 552 553 554 555 556 557 558 559 560 561 562 563 564 565 566 567 568 569 570 571 572 573 574 575 576 577 578 579 580 581 582 583 584 585 586 587 588 589 590 591 592 593 594 595 596 597 598 599 600 601 602 603 604 605 606 607 608 609 610 611 612 613 614 615 616 617 618 619 620 621 624 627 629 630 631 632 633 634 636 637 638 639 640 641 642 643 645 646 647 649 650 651 652 653 654 656 657 658 659 660 667 668 669 671 676 677 679 680 681 682 683 691 692 693 696 700 704 707 708 709 710 711 712 720 721 724 725 728 732 733 738 750 751 752 753 754 756 759 760 764 771 772 787 790 791 793 796 797 Eclipse 1 2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 17 18 19 25 28 Criterion - 685


#6 Duke Togo

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Posted 13 January 2010 - 09:21 AM

Yeah, this film had me crying a lot, giving my puppy hugs because no one else was around. The shock is hard to shake as you watch all the tragic events take place, and it just kind of leaves you numb after a while. Human life is not often brought down to these levels in film, at least not in such a powerful way. The heartless individuals that control these slave rings are truly terrifying, but would they really be so wretched if they didn't seem to go out of their way to split up families? The strength of the love these actors are able to depict on screen is the driving force in this film, from taking it away to giving it back, and that is the language Mizoguchi excels in. Where in some of his more feminoso-focused stories he controls us with the universal familiarity of motherly love, through romance or otherwise, here he almost does the opposite and separates us from a convincing mother character, keeping her hidden from us as well as the characters throughout most of the film.

In a way the focus is still almost entirely on the noble mother, where her absence serves as a constant presence to drive emotion. The selflessness of the daughter is not only to protect the son in a feminoso themed manner, but also holds the literal mother-son bond as the absolute top priority. The two characters that remain at the end are what ultimately matter, and for some reason their reunion eases the pain of the loss of everyone else. This to me is an expression of the absolute importance the mother role serves in Japanese male society, and I guess that is what makes it so easy for me to love his films. Only a handful of films can claim the ability to utterly destroy me, and this one is a doozy.

***** out of *****




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