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Sansho the Bailiff Sansho the Bailiff

Sansho the Bailiff

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Sansho the Bailiff



In medieval Japan a compassionate governor is sent into exile. His wife and children try to join him, but are separated, and the children grow up amid suffering and oppression.

Daiei Motion Picture Co., Ltd.
Art Direction , Assistant Art Director , Production Design



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Aubrey Hackett

While it is a pity that the story wasn't told with more visual finesse, this is trivial compared to our real-world problems. It takes a good movie to put that into perspective.

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Derry Herrera

Not sure how, but this is easily one of the best movies all summer. Multiple levels of funny, never takes itself seriously, super colorful, and creative.

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Casey Duggan

It’s sentimental, ridiculously long and only occasionally funny

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One of the worst ways to make a cult movie is to set out to make a cult movie.

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SANSHO THE BAILIFF is a magical, historical period drama that at any moment can break the human heart. The Film is set in Heian period in Japan. Slavery was permitted. The story describes the family of one of the court officials who, because of his honesty and integrity, was sentenced by superiors. His wife has cheated, kidnapped and forced into prostitution. His son and daughter have become slaves at the notorious and cruel Bailiff. The young man, after growing up in the camp, becomes the chief aide to his master, but his sister and cruel circumstances force him to face his own conscience...The scenery is extremely rich. The costumes symbolizes the social status and human personality. It is amazing how the change in the character of the main protagonists depends on the social status. However, the family is most important in this film. Perhaps even more than social sacrifice, which mainly affects women, regardless of age. The mother, who is in the greatest pain for lost children, creates a song, a daughter, who takes her own life in order to provide her own brother an opportunity for new life, are parts of identity of Mr. Mizoguchi.The protagonists are emotional, they suffer and live out of necessity, regardless of the realization of the ideals that they carry within. This film can be seen as a tragic history of one family. The film is rightly named after the main villain, because he is in the middle between two worlds.A film about morality, love, family, duty and compassion that at times is breathtaking.

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Andres Salama

This 1954 movie, set in Medieval Japan, and directed by Japanese master Kenji Mizoguchi is a great adventure film. The story is a long one (warning, major point plots will be revealed ahead) but basically is about a brother and sister, Zushio and Anju, children of a powerful but honest governor, who are taken from their mother and sold into slavery once their father fells into disgrace. They are forced to work under horrible conditions in a camp run by the brutal Sansho of the title. They spend many years there, becoming young adults in the camp. Zushio eventually manages to escape. A high imperial official, moved by his story, appoints him governor of the region where Sansho's camp is located. This will allow him to exact justice for what happened to him. But will he be able to save his mother and sister?Sansho is not the protagonist of the film, but he is a great villain. The actors include some stalwarts of Japanese classic cinema, such as Eitaro Shindo (who is great as Sansho), Kyoko Kagawa (playing Anju as an adult) or Kinuyo Tanaka (as the mother of Zushio and Anju). The movie's only weakness: a crucial plot point is hard to believe: the high official has scarcely met Zushio yet he quickly appoints him as a governor.

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Sansho the Bailiff is Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi's great contribution for film industry. The late director is remembered for his mastery of the long takes (uninterrupted shot lasting longer than conventional takes) which he uses to full effect in Sansho the Bailiff.The film tells an excruciating tale of human cruelty and compassion of two 11th-century Japanese aristrocratic children who are sold to slavery. Sounds bleak and in all fairness there is very little uplifting to say about the story. In fact the film draws its great impact from emotional turmoil and despair which the children, Anju (Kyoko Kagawa) and Zushio (Yoshiaki Hanayagi), experience during their long and miserable captivity. At a glance one might think Sansho the Bailiff was uneventful film, but the director's great skill to draw drama out of human plight quickly captivates. For such a slow paced and actionless drama film, I was truly impressed how effortlessly the film managed to keep me fully immersed with the film through the running time.For its great age, Sansho the Bailiff, has truly aged gracefully and it still witholds great emotional impact even after ~60 years since its creation. Director Kenjo Mizoguchi truly created a beautiful classic with Sansho the Bailiff and after seeing the film I now fully understand and agree with all the praise western critics and film-makers alike have given Sansho the Bailiff.

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Robert J. Maxwell

After the first twenty minutes or so I wasn't expecting too much from this production, despite the cachet of the director's name. A humanistic governor of a rural Japanese village in the feudal era is sent into exile and his wife and two children must wander the roads. They run into bandits. The mother is sold into slavery on one island and her little boy and girl are slaves on another. Innumerable tribulations follow and I worried this might turn into a 1954 Japanese version of torture porn.By this time, though, I noticed a couple of interesting things about the film. One was that every shot -- and I mean every single shot -- was done with the eye of a painter. The compositions were nearly perfect.Another thing I noticed was -- well, have you ever seen one of Sergio Leone's spaghetti Westerns? Or any of their imitations? You know, the movies that are full of greasy faces in choker close ups, the bone-white teeth glistening out at you? If you have, then imagine the opposite. I only saw one close up in the entire movie, and that comes near the end when the identity of a blind, lame old woman on the beach is revealed. In the absence of close ups, even a medium shot, or a shot of someone from the waist up, is a bit of a shock.Anyone who's kept his eyes open will be familiar with the mistreatment of slaves. The forms they take seem universal. You get separated from your family, the women serve as whores, they're beaten for infractions, and if they try to run away they're branded or they have their Achilles' tendon cut.After eight years of suffering, the young boy, Zushio manages to escape from the manor of the slave owner Sansho, a Bailiff. He comes across one of those benefactors found in some stories -- "Ben Hur" or a tale by Dickens. As a result, he becomes governor of the province, frees all the slaves, arrests Sancho the Bailiff, and resigns his post in order to go in search of two slaves who had become his friends, as well as his sister and his mother. The results are mixed.When Zushio escapes, the pace of the film picks up and by the end I was thoroughly involved in the fate of the young man and his family. And that's despite the fact that this is not a Samurai movie. There is no swordplay or any genuine combat, although it could easily have fitted into the narrative.The story is rudimentary, not very complicated, and the movie is in black and white with subtitles. But this is a tragedy of the sort that is universal in its appeal. Well worth catching, as long as you have some patience during the establishing scenes.

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