Searching For Sugar ManPosted: December 2, 2012
What is the appeal of a story like this, of someone suddenly discovering they’re “bigger than Elvis” in another part of the world? Of long overdue recognition being paid? Is the thrill similar to that of a revenge story? Do we, as one interviewee in this documentary suggests, connect it to our own fantasies of having fame suddenly thrust upon us? Might we even fantasize about being the person who makes the discovery that such attention is warranted? The answers to these questions in relation to the musician Rodriguez, his work, his story, and his personality, don’t mean a fucking thing, because every dollop of absurdly grandiose praise heaped upon him in this movie is totally warranted. His music is phenomenal, rich with emotion and meaning, and fully capable of living up to its self-made claims of altering minds (a claim backed up by its role in the fight against apartheid in South Africa). You’d have to be a pretty terrible filmmaker to flub this story. And since most filmmakers are in fact terrible, we’re lucky this story ended up with ones who aren’t. The film is certainly too stylistic and emotionally manipulative, to the point of eliciting laughter from the theater audience I viewed it with during a few earnest scenes, but these popcorn qualities have brought it to a wider audience. And that audience gets to see this incredible story fairly intact. So enjoy it world. The internet has made it all but impossible for anything like this to happen by accident again.