We only get a few supplements on the single-disc release starting with an audio commentary by Japanese-literature scholar Jeffrey Angles. It may seem a little odd to have a literature scholar for a film (or at least, initially, I admit to finding it odd) though it proves to work in this case as he provides a large background on the original folk tale and the story by Ogai Mori, and how Mizoguchi has translated the film here. He talks about the stylistic choices made by the director to further enhance the story, the many changes he made, and Mizoguchiís desire for the story to focus on the time periodís use of slavery (I canít remember if itís mentioned here but elsewhere in the supplements itís mentioned that Mizoguchi was forced to focus less on this aspect by the studio.) Angles is well prepared and though I assume he is using notes it never sounds like heís simply reading from them. Despite being dry in a few places it offers a wonderful look at the story, the adaptation here, and Japanese literature in general. A fine scholarly track.
Criterion then includes a few interviews starting with Performance, which presents an interview with actress Kyoko Kagawa. For 10-minutes the actress talks about her early work and then the character she plays in Sansho. From here she then talks a bit more about what it was like to work with Mizoguchi, who never really told her what to do, but expected her and others to reflect on their characters.
The 15-minute segment entitled Production presents assistant director Tokuzo Tanaka recalling his work on the film. He explains his duties and how it was approaching the director with suggestions or issues that had come up. He also talks a bit about the film, which he doesnít consider Mizoguchiís best. He also brings up how the studio forced the director to tone down the slavery aspect and amp up the brotherís and sisterís struggle, so the film isnít entirely what Mizoguchi intended.
Simplicity is the final segment, delivering a 24-minute interview with Japanese film critic Tado Sato. He first talks about Mizoguchiís films as a whole, particularly the social themes and their depiction of women. He then talks specifically about Sansho the Bailiff and the stories that were the basis of it before talking about his style which consisted of lengthy takes (and the slight movements of the camera to more or less keep the scene interesting) and how he worked with actors, again bringing up how Mizoguchi wanted his actors to ďreflect.Ē
In all we get a short batch of interviews, but they all offer great value to the release about Mizoguchiís work method with a couple of firsthand accounts.
Considering the high regard of the film I would have admittedly expected more disc content but Criterion steps it up a bit and adds a rather lengthy 80-page booklet. It starts with a lengthy essay by Mark Le Fanu and is then followed by two representations of the story that the film is based on: Sansho the Steward by Ogai Mori (and translated by J. Thomas Rimer) and then An Account of the Life of the Deity of Mount Iwaki, which is a translation of the one of the original folk tales.
Overall itís not the edition I would have expected for the highly regarded film but Criterion has put some solid supplements together focusing on the original tale and the adaptation. 7/10