music friday: heart, "stairway to heaven"
she did love her bad boys

what i watched last week

Searching for Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul, 2012). It says something about the power of Bendjelloul’s construction of the narrative of the life of obscure musician Rodriguez that I spent much of the second half of the movie with my mouth gaping open, basking in the happiness the film offered. It is nominated for Best Documentary Oscar, which is interesting given the obsession some have shown about the veracity of Zero Dark Thirty, which is a fictional recreation. Searching for Sugar Man is not fiction, and there is nothing on the screen that feels invented. The story, of how Rodriguez, unknown in his own country, became a cultural hero in South Africa, without the artist knowing it was happening, needs no invention. Toss in a couple of South Africans who want to know more about the elusive Rodriguez (his life and death being almost completely mysterious), and you’ve got your search. The joy of the movie isn’t just from listening to Rodriguez’ music on the soundtrack; it also comes from the search, and how it affects the men who want very badly to have the mysteries explained. Bendjelloul knows how to work the audience … he withholds some information, and postpones telling other important information, making us fellow travelers with the searching South Africans. If the film had been broader in its coverage of the life of Rodriguez, we might have learned more about the artist, but the pleasure of the search would disappear. So Bendjelloul plays with us, and he’s very good at it. Often, we watch a documentary knowing how it will end. The same isn’t true for the story of Rodriguez, at least for a lot of Americans, so this is a movie that will be particularly hurt by spoilers. I hope I’ve avoided them here. Don’t read a review, just watch the movie. 8/10.