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Sansho the Bailiff(山椒大夫)

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Japan · 1954
2h 4m
Director Kenji Mizoguchi
Starring Kinuyo Tanaka, Yoshiaki Hanayagi, Kyōko Kagawa, Eitarō Shindō
Genre Drama

In medieval Japan a compassionate governor is sent into exile. His wife and children try to join him, but are separated, and the children grow up amid suffering and oppression.

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Cinema's greatest humanist with his most direct statement

What are critics saying?


Variety by

Legend, adventure and poetry fuse to make this engrossing, if overlong, film material.


Slant Magazine by Chuck Bowen

There’s a reason Sansho the Bailiff is often greeted by critics and audiences with something akin to rapture: It’s a work that divorces the existential riddles of faith from regimented dogma, favoring instead the practical challenges, contradictions, and ambiguities of life as it’s often lived.


Chicago Reader by Dave Kehr

This is one of the greats, and I’m too much in awe of it to say much more than: See it—as often as you can.


Chicago Sun-Times by Roger Ebert

At some point during the watching, "Sansho the Bailiff" stops being a fable or a narrative and starts being a lament, and by that time it is happening to us as few films do.


The A.V. Club by Scott Tobias

Told with the stark simplicity of a fairy tale, Sansho The Bailiff demonstrates how compassion can overcome the forces of hatred and oppression, and shows how trying it is to remain decent and humane in an inhospitable world.

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