One Japanese Master and Two Korean Sisters

Two new DVDs, both 2-disc editions, are due out today.

KAGEMUSHA Image courtesy of the Criterion CollectionKAGEMUSHA (1980)

From the Criterion Collection, Akira Kurosawa’s KAGEMUSHA rolls out in its complete, uncut version — it was shorn of 20 minutes during its North American release in 1980. The two-disc edition includes an audio commentary by Kurosawa biographer Stephen Prince, two documentaries, a featurette, trailers, commercials, and a booklet.

Mike Restaino of DVD File admits to initially being unimpressed by the film as a Kurosawa novice, but has now “discovered the errors of his ways.” He also praises the audio and video (it is Criterion, after all) and details the supplementary features. He concludes that the disc is “highly recommended,” but not necessarily for newcomers.

Dawn Taylor of DVD Journal agrees, describing the release as “stunning”; she writes that the new digital transfer is “virtually flawless.”

DVD Talk’s Ian Jane feels the film “is a truly under appreciated masterpiece.” He is similarly impressed with the “absolutely gorgeous” video transfer and says that the Dolby Digital 2.0 Japanese-language audio track “is on par with the video transfer in terms of quality.”

My memory of the film comes from a cinema viewing of the cut 1980 version — a magnificent, sprawling epic soaked in blood. I’ve seen quite a few more of Kurosawa’s films since then, which has enhanced my appreciation for KAGEMUSHA for a late-period meditation. Sounds like another visit is in order.

A TALE OF TWO SISTERS Image courtesy of Tartan USA VideoA TALE OF TWO SISTERS (2003)

The latest in Tartan USA’s “Asia Extreme” line, A TALE OF TWO SISTERS is said to include two audio commentaries, hidden features, cast interviews, trailers, and documentaries.

I rented another recent Tartan USA release (KOMA) and found the quality quite good. It appeared to be almost a straight port of the Hong Kong release by Panorama, without the Mandarin dub track, but with an audio commentary by the director (with English subtitles) and subtitles added for the “making of.”

Based on that experience, my guess is that A TALE OF TWO SISTERS should be of similar quality. I’ll try and review it this week.

As for the film, it received a release this past fall and got some good press. When I first saw it (last September as part of the all-too-brief 1st Korean Film Festival of Los Angeles), it felt like another audience-teasing puzzle picture. In the months since then, I find certain images flashing through my mind, and I feel like I want to spend a little more time with those doomed sisters.

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