Sansho the Bailiff
(Sansho Dayu)

Screening on Film
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi.
With Kinuyo Tanaka, Yoshiaki Hanayagi, Kyoko Kagawa.
Japan, 1954, 35mm, black & white, 124 min.
Japanese with English subtitles.
Print source: Janus Films

Sansho the Bailiff is both one of Mizoguchi’s most accessible works and one of his most sublime, a highpoint among postwar Japan’s jidai-geki films set in the medieval past. The narrative impassively follows two families caught up in sweeping cycles of rise and fall, betrayal and resignation, as Mizoguchi’s tracking shots both entrance with their majesty and shock with surprise. “Perhaps more than anything, this is a film about memory, and a film in which forgetting is the original sin. Working with master cameraman Kazuo Miyagawa (who also shot Rashomon and Floating Weeds), Mizoguchi creates an aestheticized world and a cosmic order which exists beyond the characters (and often in opposition to the suffering they undergo).” — Tom Gunning 

Part of film series

Read more

The Tales and Tragedies of Kenji Mizoguchi

Other film series with this film

Read more

Masterworks of World Cinema

Read more

Kinuyo Tanaka—Actress, Director, Pioneer