Sansho the Bailiff (Sanshô dayű)
Sansho the Bailiff (Sanshô dayű) (1954)

Set in 11th-century Japan, this film tells the story of a family that is broken apart when the father is exiled. When the mother and children set out to look for him, they are ambushed by kidnappers who sell the mother as a prostitute and… More

Directed By:
Rated: Unrated
Running Time:
Release Date: March 31, 1954
DVD Release Date: May 13, 1997
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Critic Score: 100% Rotten Tomatoes™ Critic Reviews
Walter Chaw
Film Freak Central

a film of surpassing, transcendent wisdom and beauty.

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Gabe Leibowitz
Film and Felt

A richly layered masterpiece, Sanshô the Bailiff deserves a spot near the highest pantheon of world cinema.

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Cole Smithey


Eric Melin

It illuminates the human condition and gives you plenty of time to think. It is the nature of nature to show no mercy, but mercy is inherent to the nature of human beings, even when it seems buried under loads of suffering.

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Anton Bitel

an exceptional film, telling its complicated story in simple images, and creating order from the worst kind of moral chaos.

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Jeffrey M. Anderson
Combustible Celluloid

Serious as a heart attack and so emotionally wrenching that it's almost difficult to watch.

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Sean Axmaker
Parallax View

Mizoguchi is the poet laureate of Japanese cinema, gracefully exploring the battered but resilient souls in the cruel worlds of Japan's feudal past and present.

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Tim Brayton
Antagony & Ecstasy

You are well aware at every moment that you are watching something that has been assembled with utmost precision.

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Dennis Schwartz
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

It's a masterpiece in its simplicity of telling a compelling story and its depth of understanding the human condition.

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Flixster Audience Score: 95% Flixster User Reviews
Bob Stinson
A really beautiful, simple movie. Not my absolute favorite Mizoguchi but still freaking great. Brilliant acting and stunningly rich black and white… More
Robert C
Sure it is a simple "folky" tale...and sure some of acting is a bit over the top at times (looking at you Zushio) but Mizoguchi tells (and shoots) it… More
Dan Schultz
One of the greatest accomplishments in the history of film, concerning a family torn apart after the father, a governor, is exiled due to sticking to his… More
Randy Tippy
Orson Welles once said that Kenji Mizoguchi cannot be praised enough. After viewing <i>Sansho the Bailiff</i> I have to say that I wholeheartedly… More
Devon Bott
Kenji Mizoguchi's 1954 film "Sansho the Bailiff" is positively Dickensian in it's measure of human suffering, although it is apparently an… More
Stella Dallas
devastating tale of a nobleman's family sold into slavery in ancient japan. beautifully filmed and full of grief