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
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. SPECIAL DUAL FORMAT EDITION FEATURES:
- 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