Fast Scans of the Fencer, Thelma, Tribes of Palos Verdes, Trip to the Moon, Women in Love | Top Foreign & Indie Picks

Like chicken soup for the soul, this filmic “comfort food” offers virtually no surprises; this psychological thriller with horror overtones offers a startling finale; expressive cinematography captures the sunny idyll in which a young girl's coming of age; a restrained but by no means tame adaptation of a D.H. Lawrence novel

The Fencer. 99+ min. In Estonian & Russian w/English subtitles. Music Box Films. 2015. DVD UPC 751778951123. $29.99.

Based on the life of top Estonian fencer Endel Nelis (1925–93), Klaus Härö’s (Letters to Father Jacob; Mother of Mine) sentimentalized portrayal stars Märt Avandi as a former German army conscript on the run from Soviet police post–World War II. Taking refuge in his homeland as a grade school teacher, Nelis starts a fencing club that leads to his students competing as underdogs in Leningrad—at risk to their instructor. Like chicken soup for the soul, this filmic “comfort food” offers virtually no surprises. But as emotional sustenance it goes down smoothly.

Thelma. 117 min. In Norwegian w/English subtitles. Passion River. 2017. DVD UPC 888608667975. $24.95.

Afflicted with a seizure-driven “­psychogenic” condition that triggers telekinetic episodes, a reserved first-year university student (Eili Harboe) finds herself drawn to an outgoing co-ed (Kaya Wilkins) even as her overly protective parents try to keep her under their control. Writer-director Joachim Trier (Oslo, August 31st; Louder than Bombs) has created a Carrie with a cool Scandinavian sensibility—no prom-night pyrotechnics triggered by a bucket of pig’s blood, but vengeance does rear its head by the startling finale in this psychological thriller with horror overtones.

The Tribes of Palos Verdes. 104+ min. Shout! Factory. 2017. DVD UPC 826663185188. $16.99; Blu-ray UPC 826663185195. $22.99. Rated: R.

A teenager (Maika Monroe) finds escape in surfing when her dad (Justin Kirk) takes up with another woman (Alicia Silverstone), sending her mom (Jennifer Garner) and twin brother (Cody Fern) into emotional dives. Adapted from Joy Nicholson’s novel, codirectors Brendan and Emmett Malloy’s film catches the out-of-place feel of a Midwestern family transplanted to a Southern California beach community hooked on country club chumminess. Expressive cinematography captures the sunny idyll in which a girl coming of age struggles to find her place.

A Trip to the Moon. 2 discs. color & b/w. 80+ min. Flicker Alley. 1902. DVD/Blu-ray UPC 617311684999. $59.99.

Easily the most significant of more than 500 short films made by magician-turned-director Georges Méliès, Le voyage dans la lune is best known for its iconic image of a cannon-fired capsule piercing the “eye” of a moon face. Loosely based on the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, this 15-minute silent is fanciful and comedic with its tale of astronomers nabbed by moon-aliens who escape and return to Earth. An accompanying documentary offers interesting biographical and making-of info, plus shows the extensive reconstruction applied to this nearly lost filmmaking feat.

Women in Love. 2 discs. 131+ min. Criterion Collection. 1969. DVD ISBN 9781681434193. $29.95; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781681434186. $39.95. Rated: R.

Adapted from the D.H. Lawrence novel, Ken Russell’s voluptuous film version is restrained compared to his more lurid work (The Devils; Altered States) but by no means tame. Infamous fig-eating and nude-wrestling scenes figure prominently in its provocative exploration of love between the sexes, with a pair of sisters (Oscar-winning Glenda Jackson, ­Jennie Linden) romancing their respective beaus (Oliver Reed, Alan Bates) in very different ways—and the men sharing an unusual bond of their own. Restored in 4K, this extras-laden edition easily bests the old MGM disc. [See Trailers, LJ 2/1/18]

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