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Sansho Dayu + Gion Bayashi
Sansho Dayu + Gion Bayashi“From Eureka Entertain-
  ment’s Masters of Cinema
  come two creditable
  films directed by Kenji
one of the
  most revered Japanese
  filmmakers of all time:
  Sansho Dayu and Gion

THE FIRST OF FOUR SUCH RELEASES IN THE SERIES, this double-bill release from Kenji Mizoguchi is a major event not only for any fan of classic cinema but also for the classic curious. Sansho Dayu is one of Mizoguchi's most respected and well-known films and although Gion Bayashi is not so well-known, this pairing works extremely well. Both will be available together from 19 November (2007) in the UK on DVD for the first time. This lavish package also contains a comprehensive 96-page book.

Adapted by Kenji Mizoguchi from a short story written in 1915 by the celebrated Japanese author Mori Ogai, Sansho Dayu is based on an ancient legend and is a beautiful film. Regularly voted by critics as one of the best films of all time, it won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1954.

Unmistakeably Japanese, Sansho Dayu is as deeply affecting as a Greek tragedy. It is described in its opening title as "one of the oldest and most tragic in Japan's history" and Mizoguchi reveals a tale of family love but it is also an unforgettable, sad story of social injustice, betrayal, personal sacrifice and fateful tragedy.

The film is not depressing there are lighter moments and the story
is told in such a charming, empathetic way that it serves a purpose. It is set in the Japan of the Heian era (11th Century) and centres round
an aristocratic woman, Tamaki (played by Tanaka Kinuyo, who also stars in Mizoguchi's Ugetsu Monogatari) and her two children Zushio (Hanayagi Yoshiaki) and Anju (Kagawa Kyoko). The family have been separated by feudal tyranny and Tamaki sets out with a female servant to try to reunite her children with her husband.

When they stop for the night, they are betrayed by a woman who befriends them. The children are taken away to be sold into slavery
to the eponymous 'Sansho' (Shindo Eitaro) and Tamaki is forced to become a courtesan elsewhere.

As the children grow up they take comfort in each other and never forget their parents, whom they long to be with once more. Unfortun-ately there is more tragedy to come when Zushio and Anju try to find out what happened to their mother and attempt to escape from their servitude.

Sansho Dayu is notable for its evocative period reconstructions and powerful imagery, often through the director's trademark long takes.
A classic of world cinema, the film is often included in lists of the greatest films ever made. Sometimes it is difficult to appreciate how little control people (especially women) had over their destiny during those times. Sansho Dayu is very revealing, showing a stark com-parison with the lives we lead today.

Gion Bayashi“Produced the year
  before Sansho Dayu, the
  sweet and affecting Gion
may not be so
  well-known, but it is aptly
  described as
a landmark
  film of exquisite tone
  and purity of emotion’...”

A DRAMA SET IN 1950s Japan, Gion Bayashi enters the world of the courtesan, contrasting two different types of geisha: Eiko/ Miyoei (Wakao Ayako), a sixteen-year-old girl whose mother has died and who wishes to be trained as a geisha in order to escape the clutches of her lecherous uncle; and Miyoharu (Kogure Michiyo) an older and more experienced geisha who knew Eiko's mother Ochiyo when she was a much-admired geisha who agrees to take Eiko under her wing and into her tea house to prepare the girl for her debut as a geisha.

Things become complicated when Eiko's father suddenly appears and demands money even though he had cut off all communications with his daughter and both Eiko and Miyoharu attract the unwanted attentions of influential men. By refusing their would-be patrons, the wealthy Mr Kusuda (and also a section chief for the Ministry), Miyoharu sparks off a chain of events that see her ostracised by the other tea houses including that owned by the influential Madame Okimi and facing ruin.

Shown with the usual Japanese pathos, Gion Byashi offers a fascinating and subtle insight into the lives of the geishas in 1950s Japan and explores the extent of the power they have (or don't have) over their lives.

Special Features: 2 x DVD and lavish 96-page book featuring archival imagery, articles by Robin Wood (film critic and author) and Mark Le Fanu (author of Mizoguchi and Japan) and a full reprint of an acclaimed translation of Mori Ogai's original 1915 story on which Sansho Dayu is based. There are also video discussions about both Sansho Dayu and Gion Bayashi by acclaimed Japanese film expert/critic, festival prog-rammer and filmmaker Tony Rayns along with original theatrical trailers.

Sansho Dayu + Gion Bayashi, directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, was released on 19 November (2007) with a running time of 125/85
minutes and an RRP of 23.99. Catalogue Number: EKA50032 | Barcode: 5060000500325 | B&W | 1953/54 Japan.