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Japan 1954
Directed by
Kenji Mizoguchi
124 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Sansho The Bailiff

The title of Kenji Mizoguchi's film is somewhat misleading, at least to an English speaking audience, as it has less to do with the title character, the nasty old bailiff Sansho (Eitarô Shindô) than it does with Zushio and Anju, the two children of a virtuous governor who is banished by a feudal lord to a far-off province while his wife and children are sent to live with her brother. Several years later, the wife, Tamaki (Kinuyo Tanaka) and children are abducted while travelling to join him, separated and sold into prostitution (the mother) and slavery (the children).

The film is set in the Heian period of feudal Japan.and captures well the cruelty of the times from Mizoguchi's trademark humanist perspective whilst also reflecting a profound sense of the tragic that is seen in so many Japanese films of this period.  Despite the cruelty depicted the story is beautifully presented in what is a slow-moving film with superb photography by Mizoguchi's regular collaborator, Kazuo Miyagawa. It is deservedly regarded as one of the director’s finest works.




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