|Visual Reviews | New This Week | Out Now | New This Week | Coming Soon | The Buzz | Index | Archive A-Z|
Searching For Sugar Man (2012)
Friday, July 27, 2012
Some suggestive references
Malik Bendjelloul, Rodriguez
Rodriguez, Malik Bendjelloul
In the late ‘60s, two celebrated producers, who were struck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics, discovered a musician in a Detroit bar. They recorded an album that they believed was going to secure his reputation as one of the greatest recording artists of his generation. In fact, the album bombed and the singer disappeared into obscurity amid rumors of a gruesome on-stage suicide. But a bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa and, over the next two decades, it became a phenomenon. Two South African fans then set out to find out what really happened to their hero. Their investigation led them to a story more extraordinary than any of the existing myths about the artist known as Rodriguez. SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN is a film about hope, inspiration and the resonating power of music.
Searching For Sugar Man (2012) | Review
A Zero or a Hero?
In the late 1960s a young man named Rodriquez played his music in Detroit bars. It was very much in the vein of Bob Dylan, but much more tied to inner city, working class troubles. He was amazingly modest, even turning away from the audience as he sang. He was discovered by local record producers and made a couple of albums. But after mixed reviews and failure to find a following, he faded from the scene. At least in America.
In South Africa, however, his music is soon discovered by white youth in South Africa. His theme of protest and standing up to authority resonates with the way they are beginning to see the injustice of Apartheid. One South African tells us in the film that Rodriguez was far more popular there than the Rolling Stones. It is said that he was an American zero, but a South African hero.
Move forward a few decades and Rodriguez is still remembered by these people, now grown to adulthood. Because so little is known about him, there is a mystique around his music, which includes competing stories about his onstage suicide. Some fans begin a search to find out as much as they can about Rodriquez, his music, and his life. This film recounts that detective story as they run down leads with former record company executives and anyone who may have known him. And do they discover things they never expected! In those discoveries his music takes on a new life forty years after the fact.
The detective story aspect of the film is fascinating, but even more interesting are the roles fame and success play. There is little to explain why his music never caught on in America, but then, that is the story of many musicians and bands who seem to have everything they need to succeed, but the stars never align. Is it possible to be successful and not know it? How would Rodriguez's story have been different if his popularity in South Africa had been known?
There are spoilers I'd love to share, but won't. I will say, though, that Searching for Sugar Man was a delight to discover when I was it at the L. A. Film Festival. There is such life to the story and Rodriguez's music that I watched the film with an almost constant smile. It is a reminder that it is never too late for art to be discovered. New life can come in many unexpected ways. This film celebrates the power of music and the revitalization that comes through arts and artists.
Copyright © 2012 Hollywood Jesus. All rights reserved.
Home | Movies | DVDs | Music | Books | Comix | TV | Games | Sports | HJ Live! | Terms & Conditions | Privacy | Contact Us | Subscribe | Donate