Sansho The Bailiff
In this epic masterwork, Kenji Mizoguchi evokes feudal Japan with an omniscience that is godlike in its serenity and wholeness. Like Shakespeare, Mizoguchi is an artist who cannot separate psychology from history in showing the life of men in society. Set in the Heian era (11th century), The Bailiff recreates its period with none of the romanticism (no swordfights or samurai feats) or sentimentality (no tedious melodramatics about individual or family honor) that characterize most Japanese films. The violence and ruthlessness of a society based on privilege and slavery is shown graphically, objectively, painfully. Within an historically precise setting, The Bailiff relates a story of father right, of social justice, of the family of an exiled noble sold into slavery, of initiation, of sacrifice, of the need for kindness - a story as beautiful as it is anguished, as optimistic as it is cruel.