|Searching for Sugar Man, Finding Rodriguez|
I never heard of Rodriguez. I had heard that Searching for Sugar Man won an Oscar for best documentary, and I had seen the trailer, which looked intriguing to say the least. I respond to the search for lost souls, and this seemed perhaps to be that. I was open to it, and walking into the theater I felt the crackle of anticipation in the air. The parking lot was almost full, to my surprise, and the theater itself was too. I arrived just in time for the feature. Patrons of the Rosendale are devoted, and they love an intelligent, highly-rated film.
The movie unfolds as a story of a late 1960s/early 1970s poet-musician living on the margins of Detroit. His music is playing, his early promoters are rhapsodizing about his talent, people who knew him are describing his persona and his shadowy existence. He impressed the music bigwigs, they backed him and got albums and cds made. The songs were first rate, the singing haunting. But the albums and cds mysteriously didn't catch on. They didn't sell. He disappeared from the business and the people in high places, who to a man admired him as much or more than any other singer-songwriter of the period (yes, Bob Dylan's name came up every time), were baffled.
There are a couple of twists to the story, heart-lifting twists that I won't reveal as you'll enjoy the movie so much more if you don't know them. In the end we get to know the heart of an American original, the poet-singer-songwriter Rodriguez, whose name will probably never be a household word but who transcended what we usually define as success. His life is special as a saint's, his way of being in the world is simply that: Being. Big things make him smile, but little things count too. He is as natural in the world as a waterfall or a horse--dignified, elegant, beautiful, pleasing.
Searching for Sugar Man made me see things differently. It even made me feel things differently. It made me want to learn how to be more like Rodriguez. And it made me happy to be alive.