386 Sansho the Bailiff

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Tomas
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#101 Post by Tomas » Sun May 06, 2007 3:02 pm

All I remember about the film is, that it is about 45 minutes long and some wonderful camera work by Mizoguchi. Its different from other Mushashi stories - both kids come to Musashi asking him to teach them how to use the sword for revenge (I haven't seen this plot in any other Musashi films). The VHS copy was really bad, but its still a good movie. I have to see it again.

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#102 Post by Murasaki53 » Mon May 07, 2007 5:22 am

Michael & Tomas. Thanks for your comments. I've steered clear of the Criterion Trilogy on the assumption that these films are just chambara style adventure stories.But Mizoguchi's version has intrigued me ever since I first heard of it and so I'll take the plunge and get hold of the DVD.

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TheGodfather
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#103 Post by TheGodfather » Fri May 11, 2007 2:29 pm

Got my copy today from dvdpacific.
Again a lovely package. Beautiful design, a great looking book. Haven`t seen the film before though, so that`s something to look forward to for sure.

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HerrSchreck
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#104 Post by HerrSchreck » Sat May 12, 2007 1:31 pm

An utterly beautiful package, an outstanding job of restoration and cleanup. Beautiful, beautiful.. just sublime. One of the most beautiful packaging jobs I've seen from CC ever, and thats saying a lot.

More than almost any other, Mizoguchi combined the most modern techniques available in the cinema at the time and put them in the service of the most sublime material to create an art that most fully lived up to the power of the most ancient aesthetics of art. The meticulous perfection, the rapturous beauty, the cinema of his latter days more than any other filmmaker contains the timeless raw power and wisdom and impeccable nature of ancient wisdom tales, classic painting, the prfoundest philosophical tracts of ancient elders, etc. It really comes down to you from on high in a biblical sense, the hugeness of the otherworldliness... just an endlessly rewarding art no matter how many times you see it. The fuckin guy should be canonized. I love this grim, stoical dude. They dont make em like him very often.

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#105 Post by Nothing » Mon May 14, 2007 2:12 am

Damn right.

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Michael Kerpan
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#106 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon May 14, 2007 11:57 am

While I think Sansho is a "must see", I think HerrSchreck is rather overselling it. It is NOT a sacred text, just a fine film. It is not perfect -- at least one major role is rather poorly handled -- but is wonderful despite this.

Mizoguchi, whatever his virtues, was not a modernist -- in technique or in themes (except, perhaps, for a short period in the 1920s). And whatever his genius as a film maker, Mizoguchi is not prospect for canonization because -- as a human being -- he was rather rotten in many respects.

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Gigi M.
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#107 Post by Gigi M. » Mon May 14, 2007 12:17 pm

Sorry Michael, but what's a modernist in your opinion?

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Michael Kerpan
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#108 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon May 14, 2007 1:33 pm

Gigi M. wrote:Sorry Michael, but what's a modernist in your opinion?
It is easier to say why Mizoguchi was NOT a modernist -- than to say (in the abstract) what a modernist is.

Mizoguchi's dramaturgy (rooted tightly in shimpa melodramas of the teens) was slightly old-fashioned in the late 20s -- and virtually antique by the 50s. His politics, which had briefly been leftist in the 20s, had turned towards conservatism by the 40s. His compositional methods in the 50s owed far more to those of the 20s than to innovations during subsequent decades.

Rather like Bach (who was far more old-fashioned than the always up-to-date Telemann and Handel), Mizoguchi's worth depends primarily on the ultra refinement of styles and techniques on the verge of becoming "obsolete" -- and not on keeping up with (or inventing) the latest innovation.

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Gigi M.
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#109 Post by Gigi M. » Mon May 14, 2007 1:36 pm

Amazing argument Michael, but as a technician/filmmaker (not as a storyteller), would you consider Mizo a modernist? I believe that was Schreck's point.

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Michael Kerpan
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#110 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon May 14, 2007 2:17 pm

Gigi M. wrote:Amazing argument Michael, but as a technician/filmmaker (not as a storyteller), would you consider Mizo a modernist? I believe that was Schreck's point.
No. Not even slightly. On the contrary, aesthetically very much a conservative by the 50s.

No presumption at all as to whether being (or not being) "modernist" is good or bad. Bach was absolutely great -- being the most "old-fashioned" great composer of his generation doesn't dim his luster at all.

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#111 Post by david hare » Mon May 14, 2007 6:38 pm

In the case of J S Bach the sheer act of being an "old fashioned" polyphonist is such an extreme and unique quality in someone of particular genius liike Bach (and Mizo in my books) which ultimately leads his music to the outer reaches of avant-garde. Nobody else could have written die Kunst der Fugue. Artists like Bach transcend "classicism" they are beyond categorization.

And in Mizo's case nobody but Mizo could have used the melodramatic traditions, classical/Sternbergian mise en scene and the elements of Japanese culture which he chose to make Sansho. Nobody.

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#112 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon May 14, 2007 7:01 pm

David --- I don't really disagree with anything you've written -- except the evocation of the notion of "avant-garde". I think it makes much more sense to avoid a term of this sort in the case of late Mizoguchi.

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david hare
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#113 Post by david hare » Mon May 14, 2007 7:10 pm

My inelegant expression Michael - as I'm trying to say Bach (and Mizo) simply defy invented formal categorizations like "classical", "Romantic" "Baroque" or "avant-garde."

Because their visions are entirely personal. In Bach's case - and this extremely moving to me as an atheist - his music is driven by a rapture he shares with the notion of his god (a spirit of almost unbearable joy) - something he is compelled to share with all of humanity. Thus his polyphonic lines become the voices of a sort of dialogue between humanity and are answered, in harmonic fusion, by god. This is a LONG way from Baroque academicism.

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GringoTex
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#114 Post by GringoTex » Tue May 15, 2007 7:08 am

Michael Kerpan wrote: His compositional methods in the 50s owed far more to those of the 20s than to innovations during subsequent decades.
I've read that his big influences were Sternberg, Ford, and Wyler, which would suggest the 30s as a strong decade of influence.

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#115 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue May 15, 2007 8:38 am

Cinematically, 30s Hollywood had a strong influence on Mizoguchi -- as it did on almost all Japanese film makers (except maybe the makers of the most atavistic swordfight films). But his underlying aesthetic foundation never strayed too far from the shimpa theater of the teens and early 20s. That said, I'm sure M appropriated any stylistic ideas that could aid in presenting his own idiosyncratic vision.

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#116 Post by sidehacker » Wed May 16, 2007 10:17 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:Mizoguchi's style, as great as his films may be, is far more old-fashioned than Kurosawa's.
Mizoguchi is probably the earliest "classic" director I am sort of in to. I do agree that a lot of films, at least on a technical level, come off as being very, well let's just say it, boring. However, I definitely find his themes and interests far more humane and ahead of the time than Kurosawa's. Truth be told, outside of Ikiru and Rashomon, Kurosawa is of no interest to me but Mizoguchi definitely is. I'm not sure where I'm going with this post but I was hoping you would go a bit deeper in to why you think Kurosawa was a more advanced than Mizoguchi.

Perhaps a reevaluation of Kurosawa is in order? I still have yet to see Ran and that definitely looks like his most visually interesting film.

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#117 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed May 16, 2007 10:33 pm

I like both Kurosawa and Mizoguchi -- about equally, but for different reasons.

In saying that Mizoguchi's style has a very old-fashioned foundation I am not _saying_ his style is bad at all. I think it is often visually extraordinary. I do think this quality makes it much harder for modern audiences to connect with his work (both in Japan and the West) -- while Kurosawa's cinematic style is both based on more modern Western influences -- and in turn strongly influenced Western cinema. Consequently Kurosawa does not feel as foreign and remote to modern viewers as Mizoguchi does.

I rarely find Mizoguchi technically boring, quite the contrary. It is his thematic material that I sometimes find overly simplistic.

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Michael
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#118 Post by Michael » Tue May 22, 2007 10:17 am

Just bought Sansho. It's the most beautiful package I've seen coming from Criterion. I'm going to watch Sansho and Ugetsu back to back tonight. Should I order the AE disc of Life of Oharu (via xpoitedcinema)?

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#119 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue May 22, 2007 10:38 am

Michael wrote:Just bought Sansho. It's the most beautiful package I've seen coming from Criterion. I'm going to watch Sansho and Ugetsu back to back tonight. Should I order the AE disc of Life of Oharu (via xpoitedcinema)?
Hold off -- unless you can find this at a decent price -- this is a pretty mediocre transfer. the French-subbed DVD I got was definitely better. Surely Criterion has got to tackle this sometime soon....

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ellipsis7
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#120 Post by ellipsis7 » Tue May 22, 2007 10:52 am

I just ordered AE's LIFE OF OHARU @ £6.89/€10 including free postage (for UK & Ireland) - from sendit.com, which allows me to replace with a CC disc in due course without undue damage!...

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#121 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue May 22, 2007 11:07 am

ellipsis7 wrote:I just ordered AE's LIFE OF OHARU @ £6.89/€10 including free postage (for UK & Ireland) - from sendit.com, which allows me to replace with a CC disc in due course without undue damage!...
With free postage, it might be worth it. ;~}

The film is certainly worth seeing ( I like it more than Sansho or Ugetsu).

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Michael
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#122 Post by Michael » Tue May 22, 2007 11:09 am

Hold off -- unless you can find this at a decent price -- this is a pretty mediocre transfer.
The exploitedcinema price is very steep but its service has always been reliable. I will probably hold off but I really would love to see all the 50s Mizoguchis before the Lists Project deadline. I just have a feeling that Life of Oharu would rank very high on my 50s list especially after reading how great it is from you, davidhare and Lino.

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#123 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue May 22, 2007 11:13 am

Michael wrote:The exploitedcinema price is very steep but its service has always been reliable. I will probably hold off but I really would love to see all the 50s Mizoguchis before the Lists Project deadline. I just have a feeling that Life of Oharu would rank very high on my 50s list especially after reading how great it is from you, davidhare and Lino.
Another option -- this was released on video -- and libraries (or very old-fashioned video stores -- if these still exist) might still have a copy. The AE DVD is not all that great an improvement over the old video (as I recall).

As much as I love "O-Haru" -- I think "Crucified Lovers" is even more essential.

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#124 Post by Murasaki53 » Tue May 22, 2007 2:09 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:As much as I love "O-Haru" -- I think "Crucified Lovers" is even more essential.
Why Michael? What makes it stand out for you?

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#125 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue May 22, 2007 2:26 pm

The virtues of "Crucified Lovers"?

Well, the strongest element is obviously its visual beauty -- but Ugetsu and Sansho aren't far behind in this respect. Where CL stands out from its (Mizoguchi) competition is in the script and in the performances,

The story is more grounded in traditional Japanese drama -- and is richer and more complex. The performances present more fully characterized individuals -- rather than archetypes. Some people prefer Ugetsu and Sansho because the stories are more abstract and the characters more iconic. And that may be a reasonable choice. but I choose otherwise.

(FWIW - Crucified Lovers seems to have been Kurosawa's favorite). ;~}

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