Japan | 125 min.
black & white
• Newly restored high-definition transfer of Sanshō dayū in 1080p on the Blu-ray
• Mizoguchi’s Gion bayashi (also in 1080p on the Blu-ray)
• Optional English subtitles on both features
• Tony Rayns video discussion of Sanshō dayū [29:00] and Gion bayashi [11:00]
• Original Japanese theatrical trailer for Sanshō dayū and original Japanese theatrical teaser for Gion bayashi
• Box set includes a 344-PAGE BOOK compiling all of the content from the individual booklets of our initial DVD Mizoguchi releases
Kenji Mizoguchi, 1954
Based on an ancient legend, as recounted by celebrated author Ōgai Mori (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 Kinuyo Tanaka, who also stars in Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu monogatari), and her two children, Zushiō (Yoshiaki Hanayagi) and Anju (Kyōko Kagawa), who are separated by feudal tyranny from Tamaki’s husband. When the children are kidnapped and sold into slavery to the eponymous “Sanshō” (Eitarō Shindō), 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 films in all of 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.
Gion bayashi [Gion Festival Music, aka A Geisha, 1953] is a drama set in the world of the geisha, contrasting two different types of geisha – Eiko (Ayako Wakao), a sixteen-year old orphan who wishes to be taken in and trained, and Miyoharu (Michiyo Kogure), an older, more experienced geisha, who agrees to mentor the younger woman – living under the same roof in difficult personal circumstances. A fascinating insight into the lives of geisha in 1950s Japan, and a tour-de-force of mise-en-scène, Gion bayashi is one of Mizoguchi’s greatest films.