Top Film Picks on DVD/Blu-ray: Thrilling 'The Novice'; 'We of the Never Never'; and More

LJ's film columnist picks the month's top indie and foreign films, now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Hive. 83 min. In Albanian w/English subtitles. Kino Lorber. 2021. DVD UPC 738329257194. $19.99. DRAMA

After her husband’s disappearance—and presumed death—during the late-1990s Kosovo War, Fahrije (Yllka Gashi) gathers other widows in her village to make and distribute local foodstuffs in order to provide for their families. In spite of violent hostility from patriarchal local men, the budding entrepreneurs flourish, establishing newfound independence in the wake of painful loss. Director Blerta Basholli’s slow-burn drama unfolds at a leisurely pace but packs a serious punch. VERDICT This Sundance Film Festival triple-award winner deserves selection.

Lies and Deceit: Five Films by Claude Chabrol. 5 discs. 557 min. In French w/English subtitles. Arrow. 1985–94. Blu-ray UPC 760137858485. $99.95. DRAMA/MYSTERY

Unlike many of his French New Wave contemporaries (Godard, Truffaut, Renais, et al.), Chabrol (1930–2010) brought a less experimental, more objective style to his considerable oeuvre, including this first of two new collections showcasing restored works supplemented by extras shedding light on the prolific filmmaker. In Cop au Vin (1985), a slyly resourceful detective (Jean Poiret) unearths buried secrets while investigating a series of quiet-village murders. Inspector Lavardin (1986) offers a sequel, with the titular cop solving the killing of a man whose wife turns out to be a former amour. Isabelle Huppert stars in Madame Bovary (1991), an adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s novel about the openly philandering wife of a stolid country doctor. In Betty (1992), Marie Trintignant stars as a bourgeois woman who descends into alcoholism. And in the quintet’s best, Torment (1994), Emmanuelle Béart plays the object of her husband’s suspicious rage over her presumed infidelity. VERDICT Recommended for more serious foreign-film aficionados.

The Novice. 96 min. IFC Films, dist. by RLJ Entertainment. 2021. DVD UPC 014381145878. $27.97. Rated: R. DRAMA

Writer-director Lauren Hadaway taps into her own experience with college rowing for this ferocious portrayal of sports-achievement single-mindedness. Compulsive college freshman Alex Dall (Isabelle Fuhrman) takes to rowing like a duck to water, obsessively pursuing a grueling physical and psychological training regimen with the goal of making the varsity squad. Damn the torpedoes—alienated teammates, lesbian romance, bloody blisters, etc.—potentially impeding her route. VERDICT Not for sports fans looking for an inspirational story, but for those open to a cautionary tale.

We of the Never Never. 33 min. Twilight Time. 1982. Blu-ray UPC 700261487281. $39.95. Rated: G. DRAMA

Newly married Jeannie (Angela Punch McGregor) gives up her cozy Melbourne home to travel with her husband Aeneas (Arthur Dignam) to his new posting as a cattle-ranch station master in the Outback. Based on the memoir of the first white woman, circa 1902, to settle down among white ranchers and Aboriginal Australians, director Igor Auzins’s handsome film offers an inspiring story of love besting adversity. VERDICT The cinema equivalent of a “gentle read,” this old-school drama is suited for viewers put off by edgier fare but not seeking pabulum.

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