+ Gion Bayashi
ments Masters of Cinema
come two creditable
films directed by Kenji
Mizoguchi 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
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
before Sansho Dayu, the
sweet and affecting Gion
Bayashi 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
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.