The Personal Recommendation Hall of Fame III: Foreign Language Edition

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SANSHO THE BAILIFF
(1954, Mizoguchi)
A film from the 1950s • A film about mothers



"A man is not a human being without mercy. Even if you are hard on yourself, be merciful to others."

That is the important teaching passed unto Zushiō (Yoshiaki Hanayagi) and Anju (Kyōko Kagawa) by his father. "Always keep it with you", he says, as he also hands him a keepsake, a small figurine of the Goddess of Mercy. But time and circumstances often make us forget the most important lessons while leading us away, sometimes in the harshest ways. That is the backdrop of this iconic Japanese film from Kenji Mizoguchi.

Sansho the Bailiff follows Zushiō and Anju as they fend for themselves at the hands of Sanshō (Eitarō Shindō), a ruthless slave owner. Their father banished and their mother sold into prostitution, it would be easy for them to lose hope and forget about mercy. That is what happens to Zushiō, who becomes hopeless and seems complacent in following Sanshō's steps, despite Anju's pleas to not forget their father's words.

It is interesting that the film is titled the way it is, considering that Sanshō is after all a secondary character. We meet him 30 minutes into the film and compared to other characters, he's barely in it. But what's important is what Sanshō represents. He is a presence that hangs above Zushiō all through the film. He is the opposite of his father's teachings: merciless and unforgiving, and by spending more time under his fist, Zushiō becomes more like him and less like his father.

This is my first film from Mizoguchi, but certainly one that has stuck in my mind. Not only for its striking visuals, flawless direction, and shot composition, but also for its sorrowful and powerful message. There is perhaps one event that still bugs me, cause I still don't think it feels true to what we've seen from the main characters, but I understand Mizoguchi's intentions, and it ultimately doesn't detract of the overall impact.

Sansho the Bailiff could be seen as a tragic story of time lost and wasted youth, but it is also a story of change and redemption, mercy and hope; one where there's still time to do good and make up for the years lost, if we keep that teaching to ourselves and never give up.

Grade:
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I've seen a few movies from Mizoguchi. None are big personal faves but all have been excellent.
Which ones would you recommend?



Thursday Next's Avatar
I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Eyes Without a Face

Somehow, 1960s horror movies are never top of my list when it come to films to check out, which is clearly a mistake, so thank you whoever nominated this for making me get round to watching it!

I really liked this a lot, the atmosphere, the camerawork, the story - all excellent. The score seemed oddly familiar and I thought when it started that I wasn't going to be able to take it seriously as it seemed like the sort of thing that has probably been parodied a lot, but I very quickly got swept up in it.

If I had seen this before the 1960s countdown it would definitely have been on my ballot. I think if you liked Psycho you would probably like this. I know a lot of people rate The Skin I Live In which I believe is at least partially inspired by this, so I'm motivated to check that out now too.



Professional horse shoe straightener
Eyes Without a Face

Somehow, 1960s horror movies are never top of my list when it come to films to check out, which is clearly a mistake, so thank you whoever nominated this for making me get round to watching it!

I really liked this a lot, the atmosphere, the camerawork, the story - all excellent. The score seemed oddly familiar and I thought when it started that I wasn't going to be able to take it seriously as it seemed like the sort of thing that has probably been parodied a lot, but I very quickly got swept up in it.

If I had seen this before the 1960s countdown it would definitely have been on my ballot. I think if you liked Psycho you would probably like this. I know a lot of people rate The Skin I Live In which I believe is at least partially inspired by this, so I'm motivated to check that out now too.
If you can. check out 'Holy Motors'. There's a lovely homage to this film at the end.



Which ones would you recommend?
Sansho is my favourite Mizoguchi. It's a beautiful film. Ugetsu is good. The Life of Oharu also worth a watch.
I'd also add Street Of Shame and The Story Of The Last Chrysanthemums too.



Which ones would you recommend?
Utamaro and his five women as well.



If you can. check out 'Holy Motors'. There's a lovely homage to this film at the end.
I love Holy Motors, but I still haven't seen Eyes Without a Face, so that homage went past me at first. I chalked it up to the weirdness of the film but then I read about Eyes Without a Face. Been meaning to catch up with it since, but still haven't gotten around to it.



Sansho is my favourite Mizoguchi. It's a beautiful film. Ugetsu is good. The Life of Oharu also worth a watch.

I'd also add Street Of Shame and The Story Of The Last Chrysanthemums too.
Utamaro and his five women as well.
Thanks to all for the suggestions. Added them all to my ever-growing Letterboxd watchlist



Professional horse shoe straightener
I love Holy Motors, but I still haven't seen Eyes Without a Face, so that homage went past me at first. I chalked it up to the weirdness of the film but then I read about Eyes Without a Face. Been meaning to catch up with it since, but still haven't gotten around to it.
WARNING: "holy motors" spoilers below
SPOLIER: Same actress!!! (Edith Scob)



WARNING: "holy motors" spoilers below
SPOLIER: Same actress!!! (Edith Scob)
Yeah

WARNING: "holy motors" spoilers below

and the mask!



cricket's Avatar
Registered User
Eyes Without a Face

Somehow, 1960s horror movies are never top of my list when it come to films to check out, which is clearly a mistake, so thank you whoever nominated this for making me get round to watching it!

I really liked this a lot, the atmosphere, the camerawork, the story - all excellent. The score seemed oddly familiar and I thought when it started that I wasn't going to be able to take it seriously as it seemed like the sort of thing that has probably been parodied a lot, but I very quickly got swept up in it.

If I had seen this before the 1960s countdown it would definitely have been on my ballot. I think if you liked Psycho you would probably like this. I know a lot of people rate The Skin I Live In which I believe is at least partially inspired by this, so I'm motivated to check that out now too.
Glad you enjoyed this. I really need to see it again.




Sansho the Bailiff (1954)
Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi

Technically & artistically a near perfect movie. I appreciated it and it was a good choice for me. Classic Japanese films like, Late Autumn, 24 Eyes & The Naked Island are my favorite type of personal stories. Those are the kind that I like the most. I would still rate Sansho the Bailiff highly, but for me my reaction to the sad tale was one more of appreciation for the great sets and customs and one rather dismal realization....

The film made me ponder one very deep and truly sad thought... Almost all of mankind's time on Earth during recorded history has been built on the back of slaves. I hadn't realized that in Japan's past they too had built wealth & power out of the bondage of other humans. In one way or another the rich have always consumed the poor.

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