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The Disciple


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This one almost sneaked past me, since Netflix has been focusing the energy on promoting their latest animated film instead.  But this is so good, and so artful, that it needs a wide viewership.  I'm pretty sure it's the first film of 2021 where I've said to Jessica afterwards that I would've loved to see it at a festival, to soak in the energy of a good Q&A and hear the director's thoughts afterwards.  So it wasn't totally surprising, as I did my pre-review research, to learn that it was an award winner at TIFF and Venice last year.

It's only the director's second film, but his stylistic and thematic choices are impressively assured and right for a guy in his 30s.  He trusted his audience enough, that they would be on board for a story of Sharad, a north Indian classical music vocalist - his quest to become spiritually/psychologically grounded, to be authentic, to honor his father and his guru - that the standard film notes of romance and his mentors' passings are handled by way of ellipses.  Likewise, Sharad's tug of war between idealism/asceticism and worldliness is handled in such a moving, sophisticated manner.

Although the religious context is Hindu rather than Christian, this is a film that certainly deserves end-of-year Ecumenical Jury consideration, and who knows, maybe even consideration for our next Top 100.  In my review below, I gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars, but as Jessica and I talked it over, even the things for which I deducted a half-star make sense thematically.  This is a film that I could see growing in my esteem on a second viewing.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa


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  • 2 weeks later...

Haven't watched it yet, but Justin Chang excoriated Netflix in his review for not pushing this, even to critics. He considered it the best film of the year to date.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film

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