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Sanshô Dayû / Gion Bayashi(1954)
When an idealistic governor disobeys the reigning feudal lord, he is cast into exile. This leads to his wife and children having to fend for themselves and eventually becoming separated by vicious slave traders.
For more about Sanshô Dayû / Gion Bayashi and the Sanshô Dayû / Gion Bayashi Blu-ray release, see Sanshô Dayû / Gion Bayashi Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on May 9, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Kinuyo Tanaka, Kyôko Kagawa, Yoshiaki Hanayagi, Akitake Kôno, Masao Shimizu, Eitarô Shindô
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi
» See full cast & crew
Sanshô Dayû / Gion Bayashi Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, May 9, 2012
Winner of Silver Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival, Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi's "Sanshô Dayû" a.k.a "Sansho the Bailiff" (1954) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include a video introduction by film critic Tony Ryans; Kenji Mizoguchi's film "Gion Bayashi" a.k.a "A Geisha" (1953); original Japanese teaser and trailer for it; and a second video interview with film critic Tony Rayns. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring rare archival imagery and a full reprint of the 1915 Ogai Mori story adapted in "Sanshô Dayû". In Japanese, with optional Japanese subtitles for the two films. Region-B "locked".
11th century Japan. A well respected governor (Masao Shimizu, Sanjuro) is sent into exile by his opponents. A few years later, his wife, Tamaki (Kinuyo Tanaka, The Ballad of Narayama), son, Zushio (Yoshiaki Hanayagi), daughter, Anju (Kyôko Kagawa, Madadayo) and their servant head to the island where he lives. Along the way they meet a priestess (Kikue Mori) who suggests that they use the services of two boatmen, both supposedly the best in the area. The travelers agree, but the boatmen turn out to be bandits. Tamaki and the servant are sold to the owner of a popular brothel, while Zusho and Anju are sold to Sansho (Eitarô Shindô, Drunken Angel), the brutal owner of a slave camp.
During the next ten years, Zusho and Anju are forced to work and live as slaves. Most of the time they are separated, as the men and women in Sansho's camp have different responsibilities and work in different areas. When occasionally they meet, they wonder what might have happened to Tamaki.
The living conditions in Sansho's camp are terrible. Suffering from exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition, the slaves routinely collapse while working and the weakest often die. The guards dispose of the bodies in the nearby forest. Taro (Akitake Kôno, The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail), Sansho's son, is so disgusted by his father's cruelty that eventually he leaves the camp and becomes a monk.
Meanwhile, Zusho's personality slowly changes and he becomes like the rest of the salves – living day by day and following blindly the orders of the guards. Anju continues to believe that one day she and Zusho will manage to escape the camp and reunite with their mother and father.
One day, Zusho and Anju are ordered to take a dying slave in the forest. While they collect branches, Anju manages to convince Zusho that the right time to escape has finally come. Zusho takes the slave to a nearby Buddhist temple, but Anju decides to stay because she is too weak to follow him. When word reaches Sansho that one of his slaves has escaped, he immediately orders his men to go after him.
Eventually, fortune smiles on Zusho – because of his late father's unmatched bravery and compassion, he is appointed governor of the province where Sansho resides. He quickly declares slavery unlawful and confronts Sansho. Then, after he resigns, he begins looking for Anju and his mother.
Based on a story by Ogai Mori, Kenji Mizoguchi's Sansho Dayu is a spectacular period drama that is widely considered by many film scholars and critics to be one of the greatest Japanese films ever made.
The story the film tells is simple, but there are multiple key characters that are followed closely. Additionally, past and present are closely intertwined, but a narrator points out the time changes and the important facts that are worth remembering.
The film is firmly grounded in reality and free of melodrama. Sansho's camp, for example, is a cesspool where people are literally treated as objects. There are no graphic scenes, but the brutality is very authentic. The manner in which the guards treat the women, in particular, is quite disturbing.
As the story progresses each of the key characters faces different dilemmas. What makes the film so fascinating to behold, however, is not how they solve them, but how they perceive and judge each others' actions. Their views and the statements they produce reveal a lot about the socio-political conditions in 11th century Japan.
The film is filled with endless beautiful long shots. Especially during the second half the fluid camera movement, a Mizoguchi trademark, is very impressive.
Note: In 1954, Sansho Dayu won Silver Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival.
Mizoguchi completed A Geisha in 1953. The film follows the relationship between two women, both geishas, who live in the city of Kyoto. The older and more experienced one, Miyoharu (Michiyo Kogure), agrees to teach the younger one, Eiko (Ayako Wakao), how to create a name for herself. As their relationship progresses, the two women gather the courage to confront various old traditions – and discover that post-war Japan is a lot like pre-war Japan.
Sanshô Dayû / Gion Bayashi Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Kenji Mizoguchi's Sanshô Dayû arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Eureka Entertainment.
The screencaptures included with our review appear in the following order:
1. Sanshô Dayû: 1-19.
2. Gion Bayashi: 20-29.
The basic characteristics of the high-definition transfers are very similar to those of the one used for the Blu-ray release of Ugetsu Monogatari. There are a few small flecks and scratches that pop up here and there, but absolutely no trances of problematic lab tinkering. Detail is indeed very pleasing, with the daylight panoramic vistas looking particularly strong (see screencapture #13). Clarity is also good, with the most dramatic improvements noticeable during the dusk/nighttime scenes - the light macroblocking has been eliminated and the black levels further stabilized. Film grain is fairly evenly distributed throughout the entire film, though some of it is mixed with extremely light noise (see screencapture #2). Serious banding and aliasing patterns do not plague the high-definition transfer. Finally, aside from some inherited frame skips, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review.
Gion Bayashi looks slightly softer, but there are large portions of the film/transfer that are surprisingly healthier (there are hardly any flecks or scratches). Contrast levels are stable and clarity pleasing. Once again, there are no traces of problematic lab tinkering. Unsurprisingly, despite some of the source limitations the film boasts strong organic qualities.
(Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Sanshô Dayû / Gion Bayashi Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, for Sanshô Dayû, and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, for Gion Bayashi. For the record, Eureka Entertainment have provided optional English subtitles for both features.
There is a bit of light background hiss on the lossless track for Sanshô Dayû. However, it is far from distracting, and clarity is actually surprisingly good. Predictably, the overall dynamic amplitude on both lossless tracks is rather limited, but there are no serious compromises; both films simply have very modest sound designs. For the record, there are no audio dropouts or high-frequency distortions to report in this review. The English translation is excellent.
Sanshô Dayû / Gion Bayashi Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sanshô Dayû / Gion Bayashi Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Anyone interested in classic Asian cinema should make plans to obtain this excellent release of Kenji Mizoguchi's Sanshô Dayû. As it was the case with Eureka Entertainment's equally impressive release of Ugetsu Monogatari, as a bonus the British distributors have also included the excellent Gion Bayashi. With these two releases, and Artificial Eye's The Mizoguchi Collection, this is turning out to be quite a special year for fans of Kenji Mizoguchi and Japanese cinema. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Sansho the Bailiff: Other Editions
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Sanshô Dayû / Gion Bayashi Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Kenji Mizoguchi's Sansho the Bailiff Detailed - February 28, 2012
British distributors Eureka Entertainment have officially announced and detailed their upcoming Dual Format Edition of Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi's Sansho Dayu a.k.a Sansho the Bailiff (1954). Also included on this release as a bonus is the Japanese director's ...
• Hitchcock, Wilder, McCarey, Kenton, Mizoguchi, and Miike Films Co... - January 24, 2012
Eureka Entertainment have revealed their upcoming titles for the months of April, May, and June 2012. There will be seven new releases added to the Masters of Cinema series: Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, Lifeboat, Island of Lost Souls, Ruggles of Red Gap, ...
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