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

Kenji MIZOGUCHI    Parental Guidance   Blu-ray
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
Price: 20.99
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Sansho Dayu [Masters of Cinema] (Dual Format Edition) [Blu-ray] [1954] + Tokyo Story / Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family (DVD + Blu-ray) [1953]
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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 (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00718WDZ4
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 54,160 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



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

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

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gion Bayashi is no mere filler either 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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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life-changing experience 7 Dec 2007
By Sloper
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The two sides of Mizoguchi's filmography 9 Feb 2009
By the
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply a Masterpiece 8 Feb 2012
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Shakespearian-style masterpiece. 29 Sep 2001
By Alan Pavelin VINE VOICE
Format:VHS Tape
An awesomely Shakespearian masterpiece, this is a feudal tale of a young man who manages to overthrow the evil rule of the local slave-owning bailiff Sansho who has captured him and his sister after the exile of their mother. The cinematography is stunning, the mise-en-scene is out of this world, and the ending is the most moving you are ever likely to see. A quite perfect film. One small quibble: the eponymous Sansho is actually a rather minor character, so I think it should have been retitled!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Total Concentration 24 Nov 2012
By Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
I did't know what I was expecting when I placed this black and white Japanese film, made under the American Occupation in the 1950's into the DVD slot. The first few frames set the scene; the old fashioned huts, then it slipped into a sense of high moral tone of father instructing children in the need to be good, or so I thought. On reflection I think I was ready for a strong propaganda film about filial piety and the need to respect elders and then watch the scenery. The type of values known as the Eastern Way based on Confucius.

But far from it, after the good father upholds moral decency within his kingdom, he suddenly suffers the perennial blows of misfortune and is carted off for helping the poor and destitute. The fate of his misfortune then tumbles forward, not just onto him, but his wife and children who are also branded with taint.

The morality within this film is not Nebraska/Kansas/Ohio but something much more brutal and disgusting, the destruction of human beings as they are ground into objects. Within the dialogue lies a seething resentment, directed at social class, ripping apart the feudal bureaucratic bonds that tied people together within hierarchies of pure naked oppression. Whilst the Americans did not want a Japanese revival based on a feudal identity, this slipped past the censors plying for a Communist escape from bondage by highlighting sheer degradation of entrapment.

After a series of vignettes concerned with trusting in others and being lied to, we are finally led into the interior of a slave camp. Nowhere have I seen slavery depicted with such an honest sense of overpowering brutality and pungent despair. The film weeps with utter entrapment and a childhood life completely stultified.
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