Monday, November 27, 2006

Sansho the Bailiff (1954)

Simple and poignant tale about the trials and tribulations of a brother and sister who are sold off into slavery when their governor father is exiled. Kenji Mizoguchi's camera is unblinking in the face of the horrors faced by the pair (and, in a crucial subplot, their mother), but he's also just as concerned with the few moments of generosity and grace they encounter, and in turn the sacrifices they make and actions they take to improve themselves and the world about them. Gorgeously filmed and emotionally disruptive (the death of a major character is probably the saddest yet most visually poetic in the film), this is the kind of film that grows more impressive the more you think about it. In fact, I've been thinking about this film a lot lately. What has stuck with me more than anything is the early conversation between the soon-to-be-exiled governor and his young son. The father advises the son, "Be hard on yourself if you must, but always be merciful with others." Sound advice, and I've been trying to change my outlook on life accordingly -- to be more patient and less quick to anger. What can one say about a film that inspires a change of ways, other than I hope this comes out on DVD real damn soon so I can confirm my suspicion that I've underrated it?

Grade: A-


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