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Sansho the Bailiff

山椒大夫 (Sansho dayu)
Japan 1954. Dir: Kenji Mizoguchi. 124 min. 35mm

35mm PRINT | A stunning period piece that sets humanism and democratic ideals on a collision course with cruelty and barbarism, Sansho the Bailiff was the third Mizoguchi work in a row to win a major prize at Venice (after The Life of Oharu and Ugetsu). In 11th-century Japan, a liberal-minded provincial governor is forced into exile by enemies who cannot abide his politics. When his wife and children set out to join him, they fall prey to slave traders. The film, based on an ancient Japanese folk tale, is sumptuously shot by Ugetsu and Rashomon cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa. “One of the director's most awesome achievements ... The long takes, lingering long shots, and the weaving camera create an elegiac mood and a deep involvement in the unfolding tale, making it often unbearably moving” (Bloomsbury Foreign Film Guide).

REVIEWS

★★★★ "One of the best of all Japanese films."

Roger Ebert | full review