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Satyajit Ray’s masterful ‘Apu Trilogy’

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Pinaki Sengupta as Apu in the movie “Aparajito,” part of “The Apu Trilogy,” directed by Satyajit Ray.
(Janus Films)

The Apu Trilogy

Criterion Blu-ray, $99.95

It’s taken far too long, but Satyajit Ray’s “Pather Panchali,” “Aparajito,” and “The World of Apu” are finally available in a Criterion Blu-ray box set, fully restored in 4K and supplemented with interviews and video essays. Made between 1955 and 1959, Ray’s adaptation of Bibhutibhushan Banerjee’s novels garnered international acclaim, putting both the filmmaker and Indian cinema on the map. “The Apu Trilogy” created a false impression of Ray as a rural savant telling stories ripped from his own life, about a country boy who — over the course of the three films — moves to the city and becomes an intellectual. Actually, the director was the son of urban academics and was a graphic designer before he picked up a camera. His great gift was his simple-but-expressive visual style, and an uncommon empathy for the poor and rich alike. These were his first three masterpieces. He’d make many more.

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The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki

Disney/Buena Vista Blu-ray, $249.99

There’s a rare beauty to the films of the Japanese animation maestro, and not just because his Studio Ghibli crews hand-painted nearly every frame of his pictures — even after CGI became the industry standard. In movies like “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” “Castle in the Sky,” “Ponyo” and the Oscar-winning “Spirited Away,” Miyazki tells fantastical stories set in nether-realms that resemble the ancient worlds of Asia and Europe. But he’s also always been attuned to rhythms of daily life, and the gestures and aspiration of ordinary people. The Blu-ray box set contains some of the greatest animated films ever made (11 in all), along with featurettes and samples of the master’s work dating to the early 1970s. It’s an outstanding collection, for cinephiles, genre buffs and mature children alike.

Lost Lost Lost & Walden

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Kino Lorber Blu-ray, $44.95

Jonas Mekas has been one of the most important figures in underground cinema, both for the way he’s touted the best of the avant-garde — as a Village Voice critic and as a programmer for various New York cinematheques — and for his groundbreaking series of “diary films.” This Blu-ray set collects two of his best-known works, along with several shorts and commentary tracks. These are movies like no other, featuring footage of the artist’s friends and adventures, spliced together with pieces of music and stray conversations to create a collage-like portrait of Mekas’ world. They have a charmingly personal, handcrafted quality that people don’t often associate with experimental film, although Mekas’ warmth and openness remain hugely influential. This collection is a must for anyone who wants to understand a truly revolutionary cultural movement.

Meru

Music Box, $29.95; Blu-ray, $34.95

Available on VOD Tuesday

The acrophobic should steer clear of Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s documentary, which features white-knuckle first-person footage of Chin, Renan Ozturk and Conrad Anker’s attempts to climb the forbidding Shark’s Fin route up Meru Peak in India. But people who want to watch some daring mountain-climbing from the safety of their own sofas should definitely seek this movie out. The doc explains the technical challenges of the ascent in easy-to-understand terms, while weaving in the remarkable personal stories of these three men, and some of the most vertiginous images ever captured on video. The DVD and Blu-ray add extra scenes, interviews and a commentary track.

And…

Chaplin’s Essanay Comedies

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Flicker Alley Blu-ray, $59.95

Jimmy’s Hall

Sony Blu-ray, $34.99

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Warner Bros., $28.98; Blu-ray, $44.95

Available on VOD Tuesday

Trash

Universal, $19.98; Blu-ray, $26.98

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Available now on VOD

The Stanford Prison Experiment

MPI, $24.98

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