Kathmandu, May-08-This month’s picks: an Indian artist’s journey, a Japanese wild ride, an Egyptian trip into the past, a Nigerian satire and a mysterious French romance.
In the age of streaming, the Earth is flat — screen-size, with travel to faraway destinations only a monthly subscription and a click away. But sifting the wheat from the chaff can be hard with so many options, and harder still if you don’t know what to look for in the bounties of different national cinemas and film industries.
So let me be your travel agent: I’ve journeyed through the world of streaming and chosen the best new international movies for you to watch. This month’s picks include an Indian Künstlerroman, a Japanese antiwar wild ride, a campy Nigerian take on Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,” and more.
The filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane won over critics with his 2015 debut, “Court,” an observant and unsparing drama about a folk singer accused of sedition in Mumbai. Tamhane’s follow-up returns to the Indian metropolis of dreams and to music, but this time with a local arrangement of a universal theme: an artist’s search for purity. Sharad (Aditya Modak), a 24-year-old Hindustani classical singer, devotes his days to his craft, trying to live up to his idols: his late father, a failed musician who kindled Sharad’s passion; his ailing guru, whom he cares for as a son would; and Maai, a legendary singer whose taped lectures Sharad digitizes in his day job.
The scenes are long and still and shot at a medium distance, forming rectangular pools of time dense with visual and sonic details. The film’s many tableaux of performance are especially rapturous: They thrum with the ever-mutable ragas and string accompaniments of Hindustani music, which also provides a bed of sound for a recurring motif of Sharad motorbiking down Mumbai’s nocturnal streets, listening to Maai’s words. These flourishes imbue “The Disciple” with a trancelike quality even as the film captures the most mundane faces, spaces and conversations. As we follow Sharad across nearly a decade, the passions and disappointments of his youth slowly even out into something more modest, more familiar — a life like any other, spent in slippery pursuit of greatness.