Kenji Mizoguchi

Sansho the Bailiff

Sansho the Bailiff

When an idealistic governor disobeys the reigning feudal lord, he is cast into exile, his wife and children left to fend for themselves and eventually wrenched apart by vicious slave traders. Under Kenji Mizoguchi’s dazzling direction, this classic Japanese story became one of cinema’s greatest masterpieces, a monumental, empathetic expression of human resilience in the face of evil.

Film Info

  • Kenji Mizoguchi
  • Japan
  • 1954
  • 124 minutes
  • Black & White
  • 1.33:1
  • Japanese
  • Spine #386

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • 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; plus two versions of the story on which the film is based: Ogai Mori’s 1915 “Sansho the Steward” and an earlier oral variation in written form (Blu-ray only)

New cover by Michael Boland

Purchase Options

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • 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; plus two versions of the story on which the film is based: Ogai Mori’s 1915 “Sansho the Steward” and an earlier oral variation in written form (Blu-ray only)

New cover by Michael Boland

Sansho the Bailiff
Cast
Kinuyo Tanaka
Tamaki/Nakagimi
Yoshiaki Hanayagi
Zushiô/Mutsu-Waka
Kyoko Kagawa
Anju/Shinobu
Masao Shimizu
Taira Masauji
Eitarô Shindô
Sanshô Dayû
Atikake Kono
Taro
Rosuke Kagawa
Donmo
Ken Mitsuda
Fujiwara
Shozo Nanbu
Taira Masasue
Chieko Naniwa
Ubatake
Bontaro Miake
Kichiji
Saburo Date
Kinpei
Akira Shimizu
Slave trader
Ichiro Sugai
Nio
Kimiko Tachibana
Namji
Yoko Kozono
Kohagi
Kanji Koshiba
Naito Kaikudo
Kikue Mori
Shinto priestess
Yukio Horikita
Jiro of Sado
Hachiro Okuni
Saburo Miyazaki
Teruko Omi
New ”Nakagimi”
Naoki Fujima
Zushio as a child
Masahiko Kato
Zushio as a boy
Keiko Enami
Anju as a child
Credits
Director
Kenji Mizoguchi
Producer
Masaichi Nagata
Planning
Hisaichi Tsuji
Screenplay
Fuji Yahiro
Screenplay
Yoshikata Yoda
From the story ”Sansho dayu” by
Ôgai Mori
Director of photography
Kazuo Miyagawa
Assistant photographer
Shozo Tanaka
Lighting
Kenichi Okamoto
Assistant director
Tokuzo Tanaka
Editor
Mitsuzo Miyata
Art directors
Kisaku Ito
Art directors
Kozaburo Nakajima
Assistant art director
Akira Naito
Set decorator
Yuichiro Yamamoto
Paintings
Tazaburo Ota
Costumes
Yoshio Ueno
Costumes
Yoshimi Shima
Makeup
Masanori Kobayashi
Music
Fumio Hayasaka
Sound
Iwao Otani

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Explore

Kenji Mizoguchi

Director

Kenji Mizoguchi
Kenji Mizoguchi

Often named as one of Japan’s three most important filmmakers (alongside Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu), Kenji Mizoguchi created a cinema rich in technical mastery and social commentary, specifically regarding the place of women in Japanese society. After an upbringing marked by poverty and abuse, Mizoguchi found solace in art, trying his hand at both oil painting and theater set design before, at the age of twenty-two in 1920, enrolling as an assistant director at Nikkatsu studios. By the midthirties, he had developed his craft by directing dozens of movies in a variety of genres, but he would later say that he didn’t consider his career to have truly begun until 1936, with the release of the companion films Osaka Elegy and Sisters of the Gion, about women both professionally and romantically trapped. Japanese film historian Donald Richie called Gion “one of the best Japanese films ever made.” Over the next decade, Mizoguchi made such wildly different tours de force as The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (1939), The 47 Ronin (1941–42), and Women of the Night (1948), but not until 1952 did he break through internationally, with The Life of Oharu, a poignant tale of a woman’s downward spiral in an unforgiving society. That film paved the road to half a decade of major artistic and financial successes for Mizoguchi, including the masterful ghost story Ugetsu (1953) and the gut-wrenching drama Sansho the Bailiff (1954), both flaunting extraordinarily sophisticated compositions and camera movement. The last film Mizoguchi made before his death at age fifty-eight was Street of Shame (1956), a shattering exposé set in a bordello that directly led to the outlawing of prostitution in Japan. Few filmmakers can claim to have had such impact.