Switching things up a bit. Today we're heading off to feudal Japan, for a heartwarming take of child slavery and prostitution. That's right, kiddies: it's time for Sansho the Bailiff!
Zushio and Anju are the wealthy children of a governor in feudal Japan. Their father has been exiled from his post for committing the ultimate crime of not being a douchebag. Apparently this guy doesn't beat, brand, and degrade his slaves on a daily basis. I'd fire his ass too.
So the kids and their mom are travelling to meet up with the father, when they're all kidnapped and promptly sold into slavery. I hate it when that happens. The mother is undoubtedly going to become a prostitute while the kids become slaves to the eponymous Sansho the Bailiff. Unsurprising Observation #1: Being a slave sucks.
They grow to adulthood as slaves, and while Anju is still all pure and innocent, Zushio has become harsh, frequently assisting with beatings and the such. But then Zushio is commanded to take a dying slave up the mountain to be eaten by wild animals.
Anyway, Anju convinces Zushio to escape while he's already halfway up a mountain. Once he leaves, she decides that contrary to popular belief, suicide is the answer. Then she drowns herself.
Zushio, showing little to no concern for his little sister, escapes to an imperial office or something and meets with a governor. Upon revealing his parentage, we learn that his father is dead, but the blow is softened slightly when he is made a governor himself. He decides that his first act in office will be to FREE ALL THE SLAVES! Good on him. Surprisingly, Sansho the Bailiff is not all that keen to let his army of free labor just walk away.
Shut up. Sarcasm's for people who don't have anything clever to say.
Anyway...Zushio has him arrested for knocking down his signs (hey, Al Capone got made for tax evasion, ok? It works), and all the slaves are free.
But his sister's still dead.
Having accomplished what he set out to do, he resigns as governor (really? What could possibly have been the downside to being a governor with the power to help the helpless and downtrodden members of your community? I mean seriously guy.), and decides to track down his long lost mummy. He eventually finds her, blind and crippled, living outside the brothel where she'd spent probably the last 10 or so years. And the hits just keep on coming. But at least he's following the teachings of his father. Yes, that's incredibly comforting in the black hole of despair that is this movie.
- Apparently the Declaration of Independence was invented in feudal Japan. Two of the four lessons the father teaches his son are that all men are created equal and everyone is entitled to happiness. Thomas Jefferson is a fricking plagiarizer!
- If the movies gets too depressing, I can take solace in the fact that their hats make them look like they're wearing giant nipples on their heads. It's the little things that make me smile.
- Bandits and slave dealers and foreshadowing, oh my.
- Wait, so this servant woman's going to go to random houses asking for porridge and sleeping bags? Is that kosher? I thought these people were rich, why didn't they think to bring that kind of stuff with them?
- I do not trust this creepy ass priestess who wants to let them crash at her place. Not one bit. Call it an inherent suspicion of the clergy. Yeah, these boatmen seem pretty sketchy too. I would not be trusting them, vulnerable woman travelling with two small children!
- OMG. I was straight up not prepared for the violence against the slaves. So depressing. That poor woman just got branded on the forehead!
- This is interesting. The mater's son hates slavery and is sympathetic to the plight of the two children. Is he going to help them escape when they're a little older and can manage the journey by themselves?
- What the hell, now the little boy is grown up and doing the brandings?! That's all kinds of suck.
- Wow, it's crazy that the mom became a courtesan and sang a sad song about her children, only to have it become a breakaway pop hit. I mean, what are the chances?
- Wait wait wait. Hold all the phones you can find. So when someone is dying (as in, not dead yet, still alive) they just carry them off into the mountains to be eaten alive by wild animals?
- This is just bizarre. What brother would leave his little sister alone, enslaved, knowing that she's probably going to beaten and disfigured as a direct result of him leaving? And then she tells him to try to take their dying friend with him? Look, if you want him to be able to move quickly and actually escape, he probably shouldn't be encumbered by carrying what's for all intents and purposes a dead body over his shoulder.
- I still don't understand why the two of them escaping together would be so much more likely to get caught. Is there something I'm missing?
- WTF DID SHE JUST DROWN HERSELF??
Why would she do that? I don't understand this at all. Why wouldn't she just run away too? I don't understand this at all! Wikipedia informs me that she committed suicide so that she wouldn't be forced to tell them her brother's whereabouts, but she literally has no idea where he's going, so what could she possibly tell them anyway? And I STILL don't understand why it was super risky for him to flee with his young, able-bodied sister, but not for him to stagger away with a dying woman over his shoulder! EXPLAIN, MOVIE! EXPLAIN!
- And what's more, why is it ok for her to give her life to protect him, but not the other way around? Why is her life worth so little, and so much less valuable than her brother's? Because people in feudal Japan were giant misogynistic ASSHOLES, that's why! I mean, come on, her suicide is basically to create a diversion.
- Dude, if you want to address a high-ranking official and discuss your views on slavery, you probably shouldn't run up to him screeching at the top of your lungs with a Crazy Motherfucker look in your eyes. Just some tips that I picked up when I was attending the Common Sense Academy of Common Sense.
- What ever happened to Sansho's son? Why would they introduce a character like that if they were never going to mention him again?
- Trying to find your mother in a whorehouse #holyawkward
- Sadness forever that people have actually tried to trick this poor old blind woman into thinking that they were her son. She's had a rough life.
So that's Sansho the Bailiff. And honestly, this was a bit of a roller coaster for me. I was very interested for the first 40 minutes of the film or so, and I was really excited because it seemed like it was a well made film that I was actually going to like. And then Anju killed herself. I just felt that it was so pointless and it completely took me out of the film. I stopped caring about anything that happened.
BUT...it actually managed to win me back by the end. Somewhere around the part where Zushio started putting up signs demanding that all the slaves be freed, I started to care about his plight. And I wanted to see what happened with him and his mother. So I give the film credit for managing to pull that one off.
It's obviously a strong film, with lots of beautiful and sad shots and a pretty good story (except for Anju killing herself UGH WHAT WAS THAT). I liked the struggle of the angry young man trying to live by the peaceful teachings of his father. Because it's like, yeah, I want to treat people well and everything, but I've also been forced into slavery and I want to punish people for my suffering! And I think the film creates a good balance between him getting justice for the slaves as well as himself, but not abandoning his beliefs. Overall a good movie, although I can't imagine my soul surviving a second viewing intact. Like, I think I might have found another way to make a Horcrux, because this movie just ripped my soul apart.
Thanks for reading and come back next time for Get Carter!