Author Topic: Sanshô dayû (Sansho the Bailiff) (1954)  (Read 1284 times)

Offline Antares

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Sanshô dayû (Sansho the Bailiff) (1954)
« on: April 24, 2010, 11:36:09 PM »
Sanshô dayû

Year: 1954
Film Studio: Kadokawa Pictures, Inc., Janus Films, The Criterion Collection
Genre: Drama
Length: 124 Min.

Kenji Mizoguchi (1898)

Fuji Yahiro (1904)...Writer
Yoshikata Yoda (1909)...Writer

Masaichi Nagata (1906)

Kazuo Miyagawa (1908)

Fumio Hayasaka (1914)...Composer
Tamekichi Mochizuki...Composer
Kanahichi Odera...Composer

Kinuyo Tanaka (1910) as Tamaki
Yoshiaki Hanayagi as Zushiô
Kyôko Kagawa (1931) as Anju
Eitarô Shindô (1899) as Sanshô dayû
Akitake Kôno as Taro
Masao Shimizu (1908) as Masauji Taira
Ken Mitsuda (1902) as Prime Minister Fujiwara
Kazukimi Okuni as Norimura

       I must admit that Sanshô dayû is one of the dreariest and most depressing movies I have ever seen, yet is so masterfully crafted, that it’s close to a work of art.  Its message of equality for all is saturated in a tale of misery that one family endures during the Heian period in medieval Japan. The patriarch is a governor of a province and in the beginning of the film, has insulted a warlord by refusing to send peasants to his army to re-stock its numbers. It is not that he’s being disrespectful, but in his compassion for the peasantry, he realizes that by stripping the farmers from the fields, his people will starve. As retribution for his un-intended insolence, he is summarily removed from power and exiled to another province without his family. After a few years, his wife Tamaki (Kinuyo Tanaka), children and maid-servant set off to re-unite the family. The path that they must travel is a dangerous one filled with slave traders and bandits, and thus the local governor has forbidden strangers to be given lodgings. After bedding down in a clearing, they are surprised by a woman priestess who invites them to the temple where she resides. She explains that is much safer to travel by river, and offers to help the family secure a boat for the passage.

       The next morning the priestess walks them down to the river and they are introduced to two boatmen, who usher the mother and maid-servant into a long boat. Suddenly they push off from the shore, leaving the children behind. In panic, the maid-servant struggles with the one of the men, falls overboard and drowns. As the scene fades, the children watch as their mother is taken away and is sold into prostitution. They too are sold, but as slaves to Sansho the bailiff (Eitarô Shindô), a cruel despot who took over the province after their father was banished. When Zushio (Yoshiaki Hanayagi) and Anju (Kyôko Kagawa) first arrive at Sansho’s compound their aristocratic manner is recognized by Sansho’s compassionate son Taro (Akitake Kôno). He tells them that they must endure the hardships of being a slave until the time comes for them to make their escape. Ten years elapse and the two children have grown to adulthood. The years of toil and tribulation have not affected Anju, who still believes that the family will be re-united. On the other hand, Zushio’s soul has hardened and he now realizes that if he co-operates with Sansho’s authority, his life will be easier at the compound. After he partakes in a torturous punishment against an old man who tried to escape, his sister believes that Zushio has forgotten his father’s teachings about compassion to all man.

       When Zushio is given the task of carrying a dying woman to the compound burial ground outside the gates, Anju asks to accompany him to pray for the woman’s soul. Seeing an opportunity to escape, Anju tells her brother to go without her as she will only slow him down. Reluctantly Zushio agrees, but tells her that he will come back for her soon. Anju realizes that she will be tortured by Sansho’s men to reveal the whereabouts of her brother, and knowing that she could never endure the pain,
(click to show/hide)
. The scene shifts to Zushio at the temple and his re-acquaintance with Sansho’s son Taro, who is now a monk and helps Zushio hide from his father’s men. Taro writes a letter for Zushio explaining the circumstances by which the boy had been sold into slavery and instructs Zushio to make his way to Kyoto and present it to the deputy minister.

       When Zushio approaches the minister, he is taken into custody as a perceived madman. After a short time in prison he is summoned to the minister’s residence where he is startled to find out that the minister was an old acquaintance of his father and after reading Taro’s letter, decides to right the wrongs inflicted upon the boy, and place him in his father’s old governing position. Zushio’s first decree is to banish slavery on all properties in his governorship. Sansho, in defiance of the order, sends his men to tear down the decree and retain order amongst his slaves. When Zushio hears of this, he travels to Sansho’s property with a small group of armed officials to enforce his new law. He takes Sansho into custody and starts searching for Anju. When he learns of the ultimate sacrifice that Anju has made for his chance of freedom, he relinquishes his position and sets off to find his mother. When he arrives on the island where his mother was taken,
(click to show/hide)

       This small synopsis truly does not do justice to an amazing and remarkable film. If you are a fan of Japanese Jidai-geki, this film will be a re-born treasure for you to discover. Kenji Mizoguchi's greatest cinematic achievements are finally beginning to see the light of day on DVD and within a few years, as more of his work is released, modern audiences will lay witness to the creative genius whose best works, rival those of Kurosawa and Ozu. I give this film my highest recommendation.

Ratings Criterion
5 Stars - The pinnacle of film perfection and excellence.
4 ½ Stars - Not quite an immortal film, yet a masterpiece in its own right.
4 Stars - Historically important film, considered a classic.
3 ½ Stars - An entertaining film that’s fun or engaging to watch.
3 Stars – A good film that’s worth a Netflix venture.
2 ½ Stars - Borderline viewable.
2 Stars – A bad film that may have a moment of interest.
1 ½ Stars – Insipid, trite and sophomoric, and that's its good points.
1 Star – A film so vacuous, it will suck 2 hours from the remainder of your life.
½ Star - A gangrenous and festering pustule in the chronicles of celluloid.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2010, 06:37:49 PM by Antares »