The Disciple (2020)
Where’s it on? Netflix
Quietly arriving on Netflix last week, The Disciple was a favourite for many who saw it on the festival run last year. Mumbai-born director Chaitanya Tamhane made a name for himself with his 2014 legal drama Court. His second feature enters the world of Indian classical music. The Disciple centres on a vocalist, Sharad Nerulkar (Aditya Modak), who has followed his father into a music career, devoting himself to practise and the noble tradition of his craft. Only thing is, he starts to get a niggling sense that he’s falling short. His perfectionism may not be perfect enough. And if it’s not, should he continue? Where Whiplash (2014) treated this theme with a frenzied forward motion, The Disciple makes for more contemplative, enigmatic drama. More like Mia Hansen-Løve’s house music epic Eden (2014), it’s not about shooting for your dreams so much as having the self-knowledge to know when to abandon them.
When We Were Kings (1996)
Where’s it on? BBC2, Saturday, 10pm
Now 25 years old, When We Were Kings is Leon Gast’s classic documentary on the legendary ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ event, which pitted cocky challenger Muhammad Ali against undefeated champion George Foreman. Hosted in Kinshasa in 1974, the match became one of the most hyped and iconic bouts in boxing history, the broadcast reportedly watched by a billion people worldwide. Gast’s Oscar-winning film includes contributions from Spike Lee, Norman Mailer and James Brown as it retells the story behind the fight. Electrifying archive footage puts us on the ground in Zaire amid an atmosphere of febrile anticipation.
On the Silver Globe (1988)
Where’s it on? Kinoteka Polish Film Festival
Kinoteka, the annual celebration of Polish cinema old and new, is now under way on assorted digital platforms. BFI Player is hosting 11 brand new titles, including prizewinning animation Kill It and Leave This Town. Meanwhile, Second Run on Demand is offering a handful of older classics, including films by Agnieszka Holland and Andrzej Munk. Among these, On the Silver Globe will jump out for fans of esoteric sci-fi. Andrzej Zulawski (Possession) based this mad, startling 160-minute epic on a 1903 novel by his granduncle Jerzy Zulawski about a group of cosmonauts who kick off a cultish civilisation on an Earth-like planet populated by bird people. Production was shut down by the Polish government in 1977, and Zulawski was only able to release the film 11 years later, with voiceover sequences explaining scenes that were never filmed.
Police, Adjective (2009)
Where’s it on? BFI Player
A duo of Romanian New Wave films arrived on BFI Player this week. Both look like modern classics now. Cristian Mungiu’s Palme d’Or-winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) is the more famous of the pair, but Corneliu Porumboiu’s Police, Adjective (2009) is as brilliant in its way. Its puzzling title sets up a unique kind of anti-drama: a cop movie that doubles as an enquiry into the nature of words, and how they can be wielded by those in power. Its grand finale isn’t a car chase but a rifle through a dictionary. The plot hinges on a policeman who’s been assigned to surveil a hash-smoking teenager – a task he throws himself into dutifully at first. Porumboiu’s film tracks the surveillance in long, observational shots that prove oddly gripping even though nothing much is seen to happen. It’s a stakeout movie done in the slow cinema style, about as far from Line of Duty as a cop drama could possibly get.
The Fits (2015)
Where’s it on? BBC2, Sunday, 1.05am
Her upcoming second film, Bronco Belle, promises Natalie Portman as an aspiring bull rider. Until then, here’s a chance to catch up with Anna Rose Holmer’s feature debut, a low-budget coming-of-age drama whose mysteries linger on afterwards. The Fits centres on 11-year-old Toni (Royalty Hightower), a tomboyish character who happens upon the rehearsal of a young dance troupe and wants to be part of it. But the dancers are about to be plagued by a strange series of convulsions – the eponymous fits. Something in the local water might be to blame. Or else some kind of collective hysteria. The growing pains of adolescence are certainly never far from the surface. Unexplained raptures and the mysteries of girlhood have a tried and tested tradition on screen, from Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) to The Falling (2014) via The Virgin Suicides (1999). What impresses about Holmer’s debut is how it marks out a distinctive terrain of its own.