I’m struggling right (write) now. It seems I have a bit of writer’s block. I’m just not sure what to say about Sansho the Bailiff. I do know I don’t want to call it Sansho the Bailiff since the translation isn’t that exact. Sansho Dayu...Sansho Dayu...much better. That really rolls off the tongue like...like...just picture something that rolls off your tongue.I'm not sure what! I told you I had writer's block! Where can I go from here?
I don’t have any silly imaginary dialogue between the characters to make up. I don’t have any unique librarian perspective. I guess I could quote reviewer Gerald Mast…no I just did that. I could write a straight review-no, a lot has been written about this movie by film scholars, that’s too intimidating to compete with right now. And it’s five in the morning and I haven’t had my coffee yet, excuse me a minute.
I guess I could write a film essay of some kind in Japanese-maybe I could alternate the dialogue between different levels of honorifics. It would be fitting since in the film, the son of a prominent man is made a virtual slave and escapes to later become a governor and speaks in different levels of honorifics at different times where it is appropriate, but that would require me to learn to speak Japanese…no, not ready for that.
A list! I could make a list of some kind! No, I just did that for Spinal Tap. I could even compare Spinal Tap to Sansho Dayu! Nah, that dog won't hunt.
How about a retrospective on life during the 11th century Japanese Heian period? I could…no I’m not up to doing a term paper right now.
Japanese lit maybe? This is based on an old folktale which spawned the short story by Mori Ogai which led to screewriters Yahior and Yoda which led to Kenzi Mizoguchi directing it…I’m lost already. (Yoda? I know George Lucas liked Japanese films...but I don’t feel like talking about that either, This isn't The Hidden Fortress, after all.)
I could explore Japanese cinema more indepth? Kurosawa vs. Ozu vs. Mizoguchi maybe? No, not up for that. Maybe another time.
I guess I could just say whether I liked it or not.
That’s easy. The answer would be Yes. I liked it very much.
I will also list the 10 key elements of the film for me in order:
Childhood. Honor. Motherhood. Separation. Slavery. Sacrifice (See picture above). Birthright. Power. Redemption. Mercy.
And on the topic of mercy, I will end with the honorable words of the exiled father from the film:
Without mercy, man is like a beast
Even if you are hard on yourself, be merciful to others.