Sansho the Bailiff (Criterion Collection)

A film of unparalleled beauty by the great Japanese Master Kenji Mizoguchi
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Format:  DVD
item number:  62CG3
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DVD Features:

  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Run Time: 2 hours, 4 minutes
  • Video: Black & White
  • Released: April 14, 2015
  • Originally Released: 1954
  • Label: Criterion Collection
  • Encoding: Region 1 (USA & Canada)
  • Note: Audio commentary featuring Japanese literature scholar Jeffrey Angles
    • Interviews with critic Tadao Sato, Assistant Director Tokuzo Tanaka, and actress Kyoko Kagawa on the making of the film and its lasting importance
    • Plus: An essay by scholar Mark Le Fanu
  • Aspect Ratio: Full Frame - 1.33
  • Audio:
    • Japanese
    • Subtitles - English

Performers, Cast and Crew:

Starring , &
Performer: &
Directed by
Cinematography by
Produced by

Entertainment Reviews:


Total Count: 15


User Ratings: 3,955
Rating: 98/100 -- A richly layered masterpiece, Sanshô the Bailiff deserves a spot near the highest pantheon of world cinema. Full Review
Film and Felt
Feb 26, 2010
Serious as a heart attack and so emotionally wrenching that it's almost difficult to watch. Full Review
Combustible Celluloid
Jul 6, 2007
Rating: A+ -- It's a masterpiece in its simplicity of telling a compelling story and its depth of understanding the human condition. Full Review
Ozus' World Movie Reviews
May 20, 2007
Rating: 3/4 -- It illuminates the human condition and gives you plenty of time to think. It is the nature of nature to show no mercy, but mercy is inherent to the nature of human beings, even when it seems buried under loads of suffering. Full Review
Apr 15, 2013
[I]t's beautifully told: shocking in places, but also exquisitely photographed and full of feeling.
Sight and Sound
Aug 1, 2007
Rating: 4/4 -- At some point during the watching, "Sansho the Bailiff" stops being a fable or a narrative and starts being a lament, and by that time it is happening to us as few films do. Full Review
Apr 16, 2018
Every cut threatens to swallow a galaxy. Full Review
Village Voice
Apr 5, 2018

Product Description:

This stunning Kenji Mizoguchi masterpiece reaches back to a Japanese folk tale of the 12th century to depict the barbarism of "a dark age, when people didn't know how to be human." The film stars Yoshiaki Hanayagi as Zushiô, the young son of a provincial governor Masauji Taira (Masao Shimizu). A man of outstanding compassion and probity, he impresses on his son the notion that "without mercy, a man is not a man." When the governor's attempts to protect the rights of regional farmers clash with the goals of the feudal regime, he's sent into exile, and forced to leave his family behind. A few years later Zushiô, his mother, Tamaki (Kinuyo Tanaki), and sister, Anju (Kyôko Kagawa), begin a long journey to reunite with Masauji, only to be waylaid be kidnappers en route. The bandits sell Tamaki to a brothel on an isolated island and the children to corrupt official Sanshô (Eitarô Shindô) as slaves. As the years pass, Anju lapses into passivity while Zushiô becomes hardened by the brutality that has become their lot. One day, while escorting a dying slave outside the confines of their camp, they plan an escape. In what may be his finest film, the director again uses the great cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa (UGETSU), shooting scenes of the most intense emotion from a distance in long, magnificently composed sequence takes, suggesting the transience of all worldly suffering, and fulfilling the Nabokovian dictum of art as "beauty plus compassion."

Plot Synopsis:

SANSHÔ THE BAILIFF is the tragic and moving story of a family torn apart by oppression in feudal Japan.


Production Notes:

  • The film features subtitles taken from a translation by Garrett Sokoloff and Hitoni Suzuki, which was commissioned for the stage adaptation by film director Terrence Malick.
  • In addition to Kenji Mizoguchi's SANSHÔ THE BAILIFF and UGETSU, master cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa also photographed many other classic Japanese films, including Akira Kurosawa's RASHOMON and Yasujiro Ozu's UKIGUSA.

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Product Info

  • Sales Rank: 95,804
  • UPC: 715515144810
  • Shipping Weight: 0.19/lbs (approx)
  • International Shipping: 1 item

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