Aired on Masterpiece, PBS is releasing Les Misérables (DVD: 2 discs, $39.99; Blu-ray: 2 discs, $49.99), the 2018-19 BBC-produced miniseries adaptation of Victor Hugo’s iconic 1862 French historical novel. Directed by screenwriter Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice), this six-episode production stars Dominic West as Jean Valjean, the most famous fugitive in literature; David Oyelowo as his relentless pursuer, Javert; and Lily Collins as the tragic seamstress, Fantine. The cast also includes Oscar-winner Olivia Colman, Adeel Akhtar, David Bradley, and Derek Jacobi.
Criterion’s summer slate kicks off July 9 with Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s career-crowning BRD Trilogy (Blu-ray: 3 discs, $99.95), which includes his female-centered commercial successes The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979), Veronika Voss (1982), and Lola (1981). Also coming July 9 is a 2K restoration of Agnieszka Holland’s 1990 German, Russian, and Polish drama Europa Europa (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), a breathless adventure story set amid the chaos of World War II that folllows a teen (Marco Hofschneider) who reluctantly assumes various ideological identities in order to hide the deadly secret of his Jewishness. Arriving July 16 is Alan J. Pakula’s 1971 thriller character study Klute (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), featuring Jane Fonda in an electrifying Oscar-winning performance as a sex worker in peril who becomes the focal point of a missing-person investigation when a detective (Donald Sutherland) turns up at her door. Also slated for July 16 is a new 4K restoration of Marcel Pagnol’s enchanting 1938 comedy The Baker’s Wife (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), featuring the legendary actor Raimu as a sweetly deluded baker in a close-knit village who becomes embroiled in a town scandal. Coming on July 23 is Michael Radford’s 1984 adaptation of George Orwell’s iconic and prophetic dystopian novel 1984 (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), starring John Hurt and Richard Burton as captives of a a rubble-strewn surveillance state where an endless overseas war props up the repressive regime of the all-seeing “Big Brother.” Also scheduled for July 23 is the 30th anniversary celebration and 4K restoration of Spike Lee’s 1989 masterpiece Do the Right Thing (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: 2 discs, $39.95), which follows a day-in-the-life of unforgettable characters in Brooklyn’s politically and emotionally charged Bed-Stuy neighborhood.
Coming at a moment of profound political and social crisis, What is Democracy? (DVD: $29.95) is slated for release on May 14 from Zeitgeist Films. Director Astra Taylor’s idiosyncratic philosophical journey takes viewers from ancient Athens’ groundbreaking experiment in self-government to capitalism’s roots in medieval Italy; from modern-day Greece grappling with financial collapse and a mounting refugee crisis to the United States reckoning with its racist past and the growing gap between rich and poor. Celebrated theorists Silvia Federici, Cornel West, Wendy Brown, and Angela Davis are joined by trauma surgeons, activists, factory workers, asylum seekers, former prime ministers, and others in this urgent film that connects the past and the present, the emotional and the intellectual, the personal and the political. Bonus features include deleted scenes, a Q&A at New York’s Jacob Burns Film Center, and an interview with Taylor.
FilmRise has announced the upcoming release of Alex Jablonski and Kahlil Hudson’s immersive and cinematic feature-length documentary Wildland (DVD: $19.95, Blu-ray: $24.95), slated for April 30. Telling the story of a single wildland firefighting crew as they struggle with fear, loyalty, love, and defeat all over the course of a single fire season, what emerges is a story of a small group of working-class men, their exterior world, their interior lives, and the fire that lies between. Late in the film, the crew is dispatched to the largest fire in the country. It’s here that they’ll make a stand and engage in a hectic final battle that they will carry with them forever. An abbreviated version was aired on PBS’s Independent Lens series.
On April 2, Cinema Libre will release the documentary Jihadists (DVD: $19.95), filmed in French, English, Arabic, and Bambara. Banned in France (released as “Salafistes”), co-directors Lemine Ould Salem and François Margolin’s Jihadists goes deep into the heart of the Salafi movement to reveal the inner workings of extremist Islam with unparalleled access to fundamentalist clerics of Sunni Islam who proselytize for a “purer” form of Islam–including jihad of the sword–in Mali, Tunisia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Theoretical interpretations are here juxtaposed against images and footage from recruitment videos to show the hardline application of sharia law. Inspiring the Oscar-nominated feature Timbuktu, this documentary paints a stark portrait of everyday life under jihadi rule.
On June 4, Criterion’s yearlong celebration of of releases commemorating Ingmar Bergman’s centennial draws to a close with a Blu-ray edition of the Swedish master’s chamber dramas exploring faith and alienation, A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman (Blu-ray: 3 discs, $99.95), which includes 1961’s Through a Glass Darkly and the 1963 films Winter Light and The Silence. Collaborating with the distinguished cinematographer Sven Nykvist, the series includes searing performances from Bergman’s cast of regulars including Harriet Andersson, Gunnar Björnstrand, and Max von Sydow. Slated for June 11 is the Blu-ray debut of George Stevens’ 1936 musical romance Swing Time (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), featuring legendary dancing duo Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as, respectively, a feckless gambler and the shrewd dancing instructor in whom he more than meets his match, accompanied by beloved songs by Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern, including the Oscar-winning classic “The Way You Look Tonight.” Slated for June 18 is French iconoclast auteur Bruno Dumont’s exploration of the human condition in his first two films, 1997’s La vie de Jésus and 1999’s L’humanité (DVD: $29.95 each; Blu-ray: $39.95 each). Coming on June 25 is a 4K restoration and Blu-ray debut of John Cameron Mitchell’s 2001 trailblazing queer rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), following Hedwig (Mitchell), who undergoes a traumatic personal transformation in order to emigrate to the U.S. and reinvents herself as an “internationally ignored” but divinely talented rock diva. Also slated for June 25 is Sergei Bondarchuk’s Oscar-winning 1966-67 epic War and Peace (DVD: 3 discs, $39.95; Blu-ray: 2 discs, $49.95), an awe-inspiring adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic novel, appearing in a major new restoration.
Kino Lorber has announced the release of Gospel of Eureka (DVD: $29.95), coming April 9. Narrated with homespun humor by Mx Justin Vivian Bond, filmmakers Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher’s lushly photographed documentary shines a spotlight on the town of Eureka Springs, AR, where seemingly contradictory factions intersect: Lee and Walter, out and proud husband-owners of a local gay bar they liken to a “hillbilly Studio 54,” talk about their deep-seated faith; a Christian T-shirt designer describes his love for his gay father; and everything comes together in a show-stopping mash-up of a spectacular passion play and raucous drag show.
Slated for April 2 is ¡Las Sandinistas! (DVD: $29.95), available from Kino Lorber. Directed by Jenny Murray, this documentary reveals the untold stories of Nicaraguan women warriors and social revolutionaries. Nicaragua’s 1979 Sandinista Revolution and the ensuing U.S.-backed Contra War are chronicled in this depiction of a magical moment in world history when thousands of female rebel fighters transformed society’s definition of womanhood and leadership. Today, as the current Sandinista government is erasing these women’s stories of heroism, social reform, and military accomplishments from history books, these same women are fighting to reclaim history: once again leading inspiring popular movements for equality and democracy.
On April 9, First Run Features is releasing the documentary Moynihan (DVD: $24.99). Intellectual and sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003) was also a policy specialist, ambassador, and long-serving senator. In an age of rigid ideologies, he was a man who embraced the contradictions and complexity of public policy without ever despairing of the role of government in the lives of its citizens. Fifteen years after his death, as the nation sinks further into hyper-partisanship and politics has become dominated by the frenzy of social media, director Joseph Dorman’s documentary offers a timely profile of a towering figure in American politics.
Oscilloscope Laboratories is releasing Hal (DVD: $34.99, Blu-ray: $39.99) on April 2. Although Hal Ashby directed a remarkable string of widely admired classics throughout the 1970s, including Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, and Shampoo, he is often overlooked amid the crowd of luminaries from his generation. Director Amy Scott’s exuberant portrait combines rare archival materials, interviews, personal letters, and audio recordings to reveal a passionate, obsessive artist. Ashby was a Hollywood director who constantly clashed with Hollywood, but also a unique soul with an unprecedented insight into the human condition and an unmatched capacity for good, making films that carried an elusive blend of honesty, irreverence, humor, and humanity. Bonus features include audio commentary by Scott and producers Christine Beebe, Brian Morrow, Jonathan Lynch, and Lisa Janssen, as well as segments from “The Cutting Room Floor,” and a behind-the-scenes reel.