Wednesday, September 23, 2015

282. Sansho Dayu/Sansho the Bailiff (1954)

Running Time: 124 minutes
Directed By: Kenji Mizoguchi
Written By: Yahiro Fuji, Ogai Mori, Yoshikata Yoda, from story by Ogai Mori
Main Cast: Kinuyo Tanaka, Kyoko Kagawa, Eitaro Shindo, Yoshiaki Hanayagi, Ichiro Sugai

So my vacation starts tomorrow and while it would be the perfect opportunity to polish off a whole crop of BOOK films, I don't actually have plans to. My wife and I are going to take the week to get some much need R&R and watch some "fun movies" as opposed to me spending the week catching up on my personal project. If I can, I'll sneak one or two, but don't expect much out of me for the next six days. Anyway, the season premiere of Survivor meant my wife was off limits for ninety minutes, which freed me up some time to knock out another two plus hour BOOK flick. Read on...

The film's plot is pretty cut & dry, not to mention pretty basic and uninteresting. When their father (and husband) is banished from a community, two children and their mother must fend for themselves, departing to live with her brother. Years later, the trio set out to fend for themselves once more, setting up camp, lost & alone. They are happened upon one evening by a priestess who is most kind, offering them a warm place to stay for the night and a hot meal. Once she hears of their situation, the priestess offers to introduce mother & kids to some boatmen, who will take them to safety. The next morning, once mother enters the boat, the boatmen and priestess are revealed to be tricking her, keeping the kids behind, as their mother sails off. The kids, Zushio and Anju, are then sold into a slave labor camp, headed up by the title character - Sansho the Bailiff. The kids are worked nearly to death and live as slaves until they are teenagers - the female, Anju, always wondering what became of her mother and her brother, Zushio, becoming a loyal, expressionless henchmen for the ruler Sansho. One day, while taking a dying woman to the mountainside, so that she can pass in peace, Anju convinces Zushio to flee, stating that she will stay behind and lead the guards in the wrong direction. Zushio knows that his sister will be tortured until she gives up his location, but does as his sister wishes. Anju stays behind in hopes that her brother will successfully flee and find their long lost mother.


Pardon me if this review stinks, but my attention is currently being divided between the blog and the Big Brother finale. I'll do my best to keep my thoughts in order...

Boy, I didn't like this very much at all. Sure, it's possible that my mind was elsewhere - thinking of getting through my last day of work tomorrow and getting to that much needed vacation. However, my mind knows when a good movie is playing out in front of it and will sit up and take notice, if need be. This just wasn't a movie that grabbed my attention and therefore, my mind wandered and I was rather bored throughout. The film just didn't strike me as anything unique or even worth me wasting my undivided attention. The characters were rather bland and at no point during the two hour running time did I begin to fall for them, caring about how they ended up, rooting for their success, etc. Instead, this whole film felt like something I'd already seen before - perhaps from the likes of Kurosawa or some other sad sap. Kids separated from mother, son rises from slave to ruler and an ending that was both happy & heartbreaking. Nothing about this felt unique to me and while it may have been unique in 1954, it didn't pass the test in 2015.

I guess I can't say it was all bad. We all know I'm a sucker for a sad ending and while the film did end on a bit of a high note, with Zushio reuniting with his mother, you got the sense that she was on her last legs and wouldn't have much life left, making his whole journey nearly fruitless - his sister dead, his mother nearly there. Also while it started out like something that was going to be confusing, it all cleared up pretty fast and unfolded as a plot that was very easy to follow, filled with layers and characters whose lives sprawled out, despite being fairly one dimensional. I wasn't ecstatic about the film, but it may have been a case of wrong film, wrong time. Like I said, my mind was indeed elsewhere and Sansho the Bailiff wasn't near powerful enough to demand my attention, capture my imagination and therefore, I'd have to call it non-recommendable.

RATING: 4/10  Call it a '4', as I wouldn't even go so far as to say it was average or anything worth going out of your way to see. However, BOOK hounds, don't fret, it's a fairly easy watch.


September 23, 2015  10:54pm


  1. For me it was mainly the annoying character of Zushio that ruined the movie. That and some confusion on where this movie was going.


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