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Movie review: 'Searching for Sugar Man'

“Searching for Sugar Man” is Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul's splendid investigation into the life and times of a mysterious Detroit singer/songwriter named Rodriguez.
BY DENNIS KING Published: October 12, 2012

/articleid/3717610/1/pictures/1854263">Photo - Rodriguez in a scene from "Searching for Sugar Man."
SONY PICTURES CLASSICS PHOTO <strong></strong>
Rodriguez in a scene from "Searching for Sugar Man." SONY PICTURES CLASSICS PHOTO

Meanwhile, the mystique surrounding this elusive artist grew — with a South African government ban on his music and with wild rumors that a distraught Rodriguez had committed suicide on stage. Eventually, largely due to the attentions of Cape Town record-shop owner and obsessive fan Stephen “Sugar” Segerman (his nickname drawn from a classic Rodriguez ode to a cocaine dealer) and music writer Craig Batholomew-Strydom, the mystery of Rodriguez's life began to be pieced together.

Enter Bendjelloul, a Swedish TV director with a few music documentaries to his credit, to pull all the loose bits together – using talking-head interviews with record producers, bartenders, construction workers, music journalists and many soulful samples of Rodriguez's brooding, bluesy pop tunes — and to weave this musical mystery story into a lovely, stirring film (which was launched with honors at the last Sundance Film Festival).

It's a story that's almost too amazing to be true. But when we finally meet the man himself, Rodriguez, who at age 70 finds his life as an artist begun anew, he comes across as a cool, sage, humble dude who remarkably bears no grudges and who seems serenely philosophical about his odd artistic fate. The tantalizing, frustrating and finally heartening track of his wayward career echoes eerily in a lyric from one of his songs that goes: “The sweetest kiss I ever got/ is the one I never tasted.” What a graceful man.

Dennis King


MOVIE REVIEW

‘Searching for Sugar Man'

PG-131:253 ½ stars

(Brief strong language and some drug references)

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