Friday, January 11, 2013

Searching for Sugar Man

As he drives an idyllic coastal road in Cape Town, a record store owner tells the story of Rodriguez, an American folk artist who was a complete flop in his home country yet took South Africa by storm ("bigger than Elvis") before taking his own life in a bizarre onstage act of self immolation. Thus begins the title quest (Sugar Man being his signature hit) into the myths, origins, and the ultimately fantastical true story of the mystifying musician. "Searching for Sugar Man" is an adeptly composed documentary from Malik Bendjelloul that creatively presents its investigatory narrative and also features something perhaps not always associated with nonfiction films: a sumptuous film stock, here a grainy, saturated 1970s style pallette. I also featuring many of the fine and inexplicably under the radar songs of its subject. I don't want to give away too much of the film but I will say that it bears several similarities to "Resurrect Dead", another documentary inquiry with a humanizing and highly satisfying conclusion.