SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN : LIFE AS POETRY

Though it won this year’s Oscar for Best Documentary, Malik Benjelloul’s  Searching for Sugar Man might well have been awarded the Oscar for Best Picture, period. How so?
It’s complicated. But let’s make it quick this time. (A full review will appear in Rather Have the Blues and Wonders in the Dark in about a month from now.) Here’s a screen cap of the record producer of a clutch of rock and roll songs by Sixto Rodriguez, which appeared and promptly disappeared in 1971. The dude in question is shown in his Palm Springs digs, showing and discreetly bragging about his movie associations with the immortal James Dean, and then going on to show some snaps with Sixto. And, you know, he rates Sixto the greatest thing he’s ever seen and heard.
After 1971, Sixto’s gig was hard labor in construction in his home town, Detroit.
And yet, somehow a vinyl of Sixto’s work caught fire in apartheid-ridden South Africa, and it went ballistic as a clarion call to a far better world.
For decades Sixto knew nothing about that pandemonium and cash flow. But a clutch of his fans tracked him down and, in1998, he performed concerts there which elicited ecstasy.
A story about confluence in the rarest of energies, and courage in face of impasse, this is a film that reaches down to Surrealist depths on the order of Jean Cocteau–and David Lynch! There is a Mulholland Drive (Club Silencio) aura; and that overused word, awesome,” achieves a true and rare sense here–awe and wonder being the treasure to be found in this seemingly small-scale, matter-of-fact crime saga.

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