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DVDs. Early Kurosawa, "Piranha" and More

"To watch Sanshiro Sugata, one of the most accomplished directorial debuts in film history, is to marvel at the emergence of a film artist whose aesthetic sensibility is fully formed from the first reel," writes Christian Blauvelt in Slant. "All of the techniques that distinguish Akira Kurosawa's best films — his elaborate tracking shots, his wipes and axial cutting, his externalization of human emotion in wind and rain — are all there, in this subtle tone poem of a film about the expression and containment of violence through judo. If anything, his technique seems even more refined in Sanshiro Sugata than in some of his later, more overcooked samurai epics."

For more on The First Films of Akira Kurosawa, the latest box set from Criterion's Eclipse series, which includes Sanshiro Sugata(1943), The Most Beautiful (1944), Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two (1945) and The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail (1945; image above), see Christopher Long (DVD Town), Chris Neilson (DVD Talk), Stephen Prince (Criterion's Current) and Gary W Tooze.

Richard Brody in the New Yorker: "To make his first feature film, Taking Father Home (Typecast), the young Chinese director Ying Liang worked with a borrowed video camera and a volunteer cast and crew; shooting without permits, he completed the film for several thousand dollars. He also eluded censorship to tell a story that, though intimate in scope, depicts his rage at the official order on a grand scale.... This richly nuanced yet powerfully symbolic movie is an astonishingly accomplished début."

From Chuck Stephens comes word that the first volume of Bruce Baillie's films on DVD is out from Canyon Cinema.

Piranha, out today from Shout! Factory, is "a deft little B-movie that rolled off the Roger Corman assembly line in summer 1978, directed by an enterprising genre-movie buff named Joe Dante," writes Dennis Lim in the Los Angeles Times. "This was Dante's first solo directorial outing after several years at Corman's New World Pictures, where he got his start editing trailers, and it establishes a distinctive tone that he has sustained throughout his career, right on the line between homage and parody." Dennis also notes, of course, that "a 3-D version, from Haute Tension director Alexandre Aja, is set to open this month, with a cast that includes, of all people, Jaws alumnus Richard Dreyfuss. Dante stayed clear of the Piranha sequels, but Piranha II: The Spawning (1981), in which the piranha, crossed with flying fish, venture onto land, did launch an even more prominent career. Its director was a 27-year-old newcomer named James Cameron." More on Piranha from Sean Axmaker, Nathan Rabin (AV Club) and Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York).

DVD roundups. Sean Axmaker, Logan Hill (Vulture), Noel Murray (LAT), PopMatters, Bryce J Renninger (indieWIRE), Slant and Alison Willmore (IFC).

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