Sansho the Bailiff (Criterion Collection)
One of the all time great films of the Japanese cinema, "Sansho the Bailiff" has been upgraded to Blu-ray from Criterion, and what a difference it makes. The extras remain the same from the DVD release a few years ago - an interview with actress Kyoko Kagawa, a couple interviews and a commentary with assorted Japanese film scholars that detail director Kenji Mizoguchi’s work ethic, attention to period detail, etc., and a booklet containing two iterations of the traditional story on which the film is based - but the increase in detail is nothing less than entrancing.
Mizoguchi’s tale, about two orphaned children sold to the ruthless title character, and the hardships ensued on the path to what little redemption they can muster, has a transcendent quality in the first place. The slow movements of the characters and intense formalism of the compositions keep his story set firmly in the realm of the mythical; of the folk tale; allowing his emotions and gestures to approach grandeur even when the scope of his story (or of his action effects) does not. To call it a magical film would be too cliché, it does "Sansho" a disservice.
No, this is a wise film, a meticulous film, a masterful film. And Criterion’s Blu-ray release, as they so often are, is the closest you can get to replicating the experience of watching a film print of "Sansho" flicker onto the big screen.
"Sansho the Bailiff"