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  • Sansho Dayu [Masters of Cinema] (Dual Format Edition) [Blu-ray] [1954]
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Sansho Dayu [Masters of Cinema] (Dual Format Edition) [Blu-ray] [1954]

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Product details

  • Directors: Kenji MIZOGUCHI
  • Format: Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region B/2 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Eureka Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 23 April 2012
  • Run Time: 125 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00718WDZ4
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 70,547 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

SYNOPSIS: Based on an ancient legend, as recounted by celebrated author Mori gai (in his short story of the same name, written in 1915), and adapted by Mizoguchi, Sansho Dayu [Sansho the Steward, aka Sansho the Bailiff] is both distinctively Japanese and as deeply affecting as a Greek tragedy. Described in its opening title as 'one of the oldest and most tragic in Japan's history', Mizoguchi depicts an unforgettably sad story of social injustice, family love, and personal sacrifice all conveyed with exquisite tone and purity of emotion.

Set in Heian era (11th century) Japan, it follows an aristocratic woman, Tamaki (played by Tanaka Kinuyo, who also stars in Mizoguchi's Ugetsu Monogatari), and her two children, Zushi (Hanayagi Yoshiaki) and Anju (Kagawa Ky ko), who are separated by feudal tyranny from Tamaki's husband. When the children are kidnapped and sold into slavery to the eponymous 'Sansho'; (Shind Eitar ), the lives of each of the family members follow very different paths each course uniquely, and insufferably, tragic.

Famed for its period reconstructions and powerful imagery, often through the director's trademark long takes, Sansho Dayu is one of the most critically revered of all of japanese cinema a Venice Film Festival Silver Lion winner that often appears in lists of the greatest films ever made.

  • Newly restored high-definition transfer of Sansho Dayu
  • Mizoguchi's Gion Bayashi (also in 1080p on the Blu-ray)
  • Optional English subtitles on both features
  • Tony Rayns video discussion of Sansho Dayu [29:00] and Gion Bayashi [11:00]
  • Original Japanese theatrical trailer for Sansho Dayu and original Japanese theatrical teaser for Gion Bayashi
  • Illustrated booklet featuring rare archival imagery and a full reprint of the 1915 Mori gai story adapted in Sansho Dayu


The subjugated plight of women in Japanese society was always a subject close to Mizoguchi's heart--never more so than in Sansho Dayu, one of the towering late masterpieces of his final years. Its intensity, compassion, dramatic sweep and breathtaking formal beauty place it among his greatest films. The story is set in the harsh feudal world of 11th-century Japan. A provincial governor is demoted and exiled for showing too much clemency to those he rules; travelling to join him, his wife is kidnapped and forced to become a courtesan and her children are sold into slavery. They grow up under the harsh regime of the bailiff Sansho while their mother (the great actress Kinuyo Tanaka, in a performance of heartbreaking desolation) yearns hopelessly for them. Working with his favourite cameraman, Kazuo Miyagawa, Mizoguchi films this tragic story in long, intricate takes, rarely resorting to close-ups. The visual elegance and formal restraint of his style make the film all the more emotionally harrowing, and the final scene, on a desolate and windswept island, must be one of the most unbearably moving endings in all cinema. --Philip Kemp --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 13 Dec. 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I bought this for the justly famous Sansho Dayu, and knew nothing about the "B side" Gion Bayashi. This latter film is in fact well worth the price by itself. Kogure Michiyo as Miyoharu, the elder geisha, is mesmerising and the film packs an astonishing slow-burn punch (if there is such a concept). It's got a lot of interest on a purely cultural level, with all the geisha stuff, and is as visually beautiful as you'd expect from the director of Ugetsu. But what knocks you flat is the power of Miyoharu's story: an abused woman vastly the moral superior of everyone around her, with that extraordinary, apparently passive, strength of so many of the classic Japanese heroines.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Sloper on 7 Dec. 2007
Format: DVD
So...where are all the gushing reviews?

Sansho Dayu is easily one of the best films ever made, and we are incredibly lucky that it has finally been released by Masters of Cinema, the best producers of DVDs in this country (along with the BFI, perhaps). In some ways, this is an even better edition than the one Criterion released in America back in May.

You will never forget the first time you see this film; words can't begin to do justice to its visual beauty and its emotional impact. It stands comparison with the best films of Kurosawa and Ozu - with the best films of any director, come to that. Coupled with the almost equally marvellous (though smaller in scale) Gion Bayashi, this is a must-own DVD set for any self-respecting film buff. It is worth at least twice as much as Amazon are currently charging for it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By the on 9 Feb. 2009
Format: DVD
This set is an excellent introduction to Mizoguchi's films. Sansho Dayu is one of his best known films (also known in the UK as Sansho the Bailif). It is a pseudo-historical tragic family tale set in a abstract and distant past. It discusses injustice and the fragility of human destiny. It is a slow film and has the dreamy style that many consider Mizoguchi's trademark.

The second film, less known but undeservedly so, Gion Bayashi is completely different being a modern (1954) story set in the world of geishas. Geisha films were very popular at the time because of the change in legislation regarding prostitution in Japan and filmmakers like Naruse and Mizoguchi have used the background to show the contrast between the old and new Japan. It is the story of two women, a geisha in her thirties and a young 16 old girl who wishes to become the pupil of the elder woman and a wonderful love story.

The set is accompanied by a detailed booklet including an interview with Mizoguchi. If you want to find out more about this intriguing and versatile filmmaker I would heartily recommend this set.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Fergus Stewart on 8 Feb. 2012
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Sansho Dayu is (along with Ugetsu Monogatari,) quite simply a masterpiece of Japanese (and indeed world) cinema. Sansho Dayu (and Ugetsu Monogatari) are frequently top (or near the top) of serious critics' lists of the best movies of all time. This movie is the tale of the sad fate of a brother and sister following the murder of their father and separation from their mother.

Mizoguchi is one of the gods of Japanese cinema; Ozu poignantly depicted the distances between generations and the changing face of the family in 20th century Japan but the principle concern of Kenji Mizoguchi was how women have suffered in a male-dominated society throughout Japanese history. This heartfelt theme was almost certainly instigated by his father's brutal treatment of Mizoguchi's mother and sisters and the eventual selling of his older sister into the life of a geisha. Often in his films women suffer terribly as a result of inflexible social rules and hierarchies. Watching them, however, is continuously rewarding. This movie is poignant and tragic but it is not depressing to watch; here is a director at the top of his game.

Part of what makes these movies so outstanding is Mizoguchi's artistic use of the camera with perfect composition, framing and meticulously executed long takes. Watching this movie is a reminder of how, for many of us, black and white film has a quality which is essentially cinematic and part of the enjoyment of the experience. Mizoguchi's use of lighting and composition shares all the luminous formal beauty of Japanese art.

And then there is the story itself, with its unforgettable final scene.

An essential blu-ray for the genuine cinema fan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By schumann_bg TOP 50 REVIEWER on 9 Aug. 2014
Format: DVD
Sansho Dayu is one of the great world films. Initially you imagine it's going to be difficult and very 'highbrow', being in Japanese, set in the 11th century, and relating to cultural norms very different from what we know in the 21st century in a completely different sort of society. But what is striking is how quickly you are drawn in to this melodrama which really plucks at the heartstrings, yet is genuinely moving, and shows restraint in the filming and acting style in spite of the very emotionally charged scenes which punctuate it. It tells the story, over at least two decades, of a governor's family in feudal Japan. He is sent into exile and his family, trying to get to him a few years later, are separated and sold into a life of slavery. The scene where the mother is separated from the two children is one of several harrowing sequences, and only the beginning of their real travails, but in the end there is a triumph of courage, if only arrived at by taking leave of reality in a conclusion that has Robinson Crusoe-like overtones. The music is beautiful and the dialogues haunting. To see this film helps you to relativise the ills in our society. I had expected the second film Gion Bayashi, also made in the fifties, to be a filler, but how wrong I was ... it is also a very moving study of the life of geishas in contemporary Japan, and once again shows the individual subject to unacceptable constraint and cruelty, even if it is not quite as extreme as the other film. The relationship between the two main characters, a woman in her thirties and a new girl who is very young, could hardly be more touching or truthful, and the older woman, Miyoharu, is a noble soul indeed.Read more ›
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