Based on an ancient legend, as recounted by celebrated author Mori Ōgai (in his short story of the same name, written in 1915), and adapted by Mizoguchi, Sanshō Dayū [Sanshō the Steward, aka Sanshō the Bailiff] is both distinctively Japanese and as deeply affecting as a Greek tragedy. Described in its opening title as “one of the oldest and most tragic in Japan’s history”, Mizoguchi depicts an unforgettably sad story of social injustice, family love, and personal sacrifice – all conveyed with exquisite tone and purity of emotion.
Set in Heian era (11th century) Japan, it follows an aristocratic woman, Tamaki (played by Tanaka Kinuyo, who also stars in Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu Monogatari), and her two children, Zushiō (Hanayagi Yoshiaki) and Anju (Kagawa Kyōko), who are separated by feudal tyranny from Tamaki’s husband. When the children are kidnapped and sold into slavery to the eponymous “Sanshō” (Shindō Eitarō), the lives of each of the family members follow very different paths – each course uniquely, and insufferably, tragic.
Famed for its period reconstructions and powerful imagery, often through the director’s trademark long takes, Sanshō Dayū is one of the most critically revered of all of japanese cinema – a Venice Film Festival Silver Lion winner that often appears in lists of the greatest films ever made. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present Mizoguchi’s classic alongside the lesser known Gion Bayashi [Gion Festival Music, aka A Geisha] with both films in 1080p in a special Dual Format edition, on Blu-ray for the first time anywhere in the world.