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Sansho the Bailiff Reviews

Page 1 of 13
Bob S

Super Reviewer

June 25, 2007
A really beautiful, simple movie. Not my absolute favorite Mizoguchi but still freaking great. Brilliant acting and stunningly rich black and white cinematography. Set in the Heian period, during 11th century, well before most Japanese historical dramas.
Dan S

Super Reviewer

May 6, 2013
One of the greatest accomplishments in the history of film, concerning a family torn apart after the father, a governor, is exiled due to sticking to his morals, and how the rest of his family is sold into slavery and prostitution after attempting to find him. A damning display of slavery and a heroic tale of perseverance, there isn't an inch of pretentiousness to 'Sansho', more so a delicate simplicity that makes its points very well and never loses focus on its overarching message of honesty and integrity are two of the most important traits we as humans should possess. Almost unbearable to watch at times just because of how disturbing the conditions these slaves have to work under are, but there is always a ray of light at the end of the tunnel that takes form in the second half of the film with splendid, moving results. A dynamite, important film.
Mr Awesome
Mr Awesome

Super Reviewer

March 29, 2012
Kenji Mizoguchi's 1954 film "Sansho the Bailiff" is positively Dickensian in it's measure of human suffering, although it is apparently an old japanese fable about the virtues of mercy and compassion. When the governor of a province refuses to crack down and execute some protestors, he and his family are exiled. His wife and children are separated from him, and on their way to re-join the father they are abducted by slave traders and sold into slavery. The mother is sold to a brothel and the brother and sister are sold to Sansho the bailiff, who is overseer of the mansion belonging to the Minister of the right. Conditions for slaves there are deplorable, but the children must bide their time if they ever want to escape back to their parents. The story is quite a tear-jerker, and undoubtably a crowd pleaser with it's injustices being shown up in the end by the virtues of compassion and mercy. It's quite poignant to say the least (and I'm sure if Charles Dickens were asian and alive in the 1950s, I'm sure he'd say the same thing).
RCCLBC
RCCLBC

Super Reviewer

December 23, 2011
Sure it is a simple "folky" tale...and sure some of acting is a bit over the top at times (looking at you Zushio) but Mizoguchi tells (and shoots) it in a way that you can not help but enjoy.
flixsterman
flixsterman

Super Reviewer

January 19, 2009
Orson Welles once said that Kenji Mizoguchi cannot be praised enough. After viewing Sansho the Bailiff I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree.
rubystevens
rubystevens

Super Reviewer

September 15, 2008
devastating tale of a nobleman's family sold into slavery in ancient japan. beautifully filmed and full of grief
bbcfloridabound
bbcfloridabound

Super Reviewer

February 4, 2008
Another great movie from early Japan. This is part of the Criterian collection and I can see why. Worth near 5 stars in any collection
Michael G

Super Reviewer

June 24, 2007
Really grim and depressing, but also beautifully done. It'll most likely fall into that "only need to see it once in my entire lifetime" category for me, but I'm still glad I saw it.
sanjurosamurai
sanjurosamurai

Super Reviewer

June 20, 2007
this film was pretty good. the story was depressing and one thing that the main character does at the end doesnt make a lot of sense, but the film was well acted and the story well told. all i kept thinking through the whole film was "wow, what a terrible way to spend a life"
Harlequin68
Harlequin68

Super Reviewer

November 16, 2005
[font=Century Gothic]"Sansho the Bailiff" takes place in 11th century Japan. Lord Taira is sent into exile when he defies his superior by defending his peasants from being unfairly conscripted into the army. Six years later, his wife and children are on their way to join him when they are kidnapped and sold into slavery.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"Sansho the Bailiff" is absolutely heartbreaking. It is also a powerful allegory about the importance of taking a stand for what you believe in and holding onto your humanity even under the worse possible conditions. Simply put, this is exquisite filmmaking of the highest order.[/font]
Chris B

Super Reviewer

June 17, 2011
Sansho the Bailiff is a brutally heart wrenching film about a family torn apart and sold into slavery despite their wealth and family name. The film explores themes of redemption and acceptance as well as kindness and staying true to oneself and morality. Beautifully filmed with amazing landscape shots and plenty of long shots, Sansho the Bailiff is stunning to watch and filled with emotion. It's more a drama and doesn't contain traditonal samurai battles but rather keeps the story and characters the sole focus, and this gives it humanity and helps connect the viewer. Highly Recommended for Japanese film lovers or Classic film fans that want an emotional but utterly hopeful drama.
jimbotender
jimbotender

Super Reviewer

September 7, 2008
Holy cow,what a true work of art.Stiff,relentless in its grueling painting of the lives controlled by a ruthless leader.Tyranny as a weapon against free speech,not just freedom as a whole.Crime and punishment is how it goes.Where heaven and hell commit a tormenting piano sonata.
Dracula787
Dracula787

Super Reviewer

September 5, 2008
Kenji Mizoguchi may not be as widely remembered as the other two big Japanese directors of the time, Kurosawa and Ozu, but he was every bit if not more loved by the international film community in his time as either of them. Ugetsu is probably a little more famous, possibly because it was more widely available for a while, but this movie is probably Mizoguchi?s magnum opus. Set in pre-feudal Japan (one of the country?s low points), the film tells the heartbreaking story of a family torn apart by a slave ring and sold to the title character. Sansho is one of the most evil bastards on screen, not because of onscreen moustache twirling (though he does sport interesting facial hair), but rather because the film dwells so much on the consequences of his evil actions. This has a lot in common with Grave of the Fireflies as it shows the evils of the world falling on innocent children who need to cope. The film is also very well made, lots of elaborate but subtle long takes.
August 19, 2013
Sansho the Bailiff is Kenji Mizoguchi's masterpiece. Superbly acted, scored, and shot, the film features what is likely one of the most powerful and devastating endings in the cinema.
March 29, 2012
Kenji Mizoguchi's 1954 film "Sansho the Bailiff" is positively Dickensian in it's measure of human suffering, although it is apparently an old japanese fable about the virtues of mercy and compassion. When the governor of a province refuses to crack down and execute some protestors, he and his family are exiled. His wife and children are separated from him, and on their way to re-join the father they are abducted by slave traders and sold into slavery. The mother is sold to a brothel and the brother and sister are sold to Sansho the bailiff, who is overseer of the mansion belonging to the Minister of the right. Conditions for slaves there are deplorable, but the children must bide their time if they ever want to escape back to their parents. The story is quite a tear-jerker, and undoubtably a crowd pleaser with it's injustices being shown up in the end by the virtues of compassion and mercy. It's quite poignant to say the least (and I'm sure if Charles Dickens were asian and alive in the 1950s, I'm sure he'd say the same thing).
January 30, 2012
A primal, elegaic folk tale with gorgeous photography ahead of its time, moving attention to character, and a timeless humanistic quality that leaves a lasting emotional impression.
January 6, 2009
Without mercy, man is like a beast. What kind is not specified. I mean, "beast" is a pretty broad term, some are ferocious and can outrun an armless man on a unicycle, while others are just sort of fat and lazy. Then again, I suppose in that case beast would be like man. But I digress.
Jungian
April 5, 2008
Incredible film by Mizoguchi. His finest work that I've seen. About overcoming the odds even in the face of hopelessness and evil.
budquinlan
October 17, 2007
A plot summary of Sansho the Baliff would read like a fairy tale: the children of an nobleman exiled for his egalitarianism are kidnapped from their mother and sold into slavery, only to---

But Sansho is not a fairy tale. Whatever miraculous turns it may take are accompanied by loss, and the viewer, like the characters, comes to accept these are more turns on the wheel of fate. "Isn't life torture?" is the refrain of a (faux) folk song in the movie, and the world portrayed in Sansho the Baliff has much more to be endured than enjoyed; but those who not only endure but hold fast to humane principles may find some kind of redemption in their lives. It is a beautifully photographed, deeply moving film.
June 13, 2007
What a downer movie! But then again, I'm kind of a sucker for downer movies. (Note: I don't know why it's called Sansho th Baliff considering that on the grand scale of things, Sansho is a minor part in the story.)
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