Searching for Sugarman

searchingforsugarman1I finally got to see the South African made docu-movie Searching for Sugarman… what a story and what a cleverly crafted film!
The ‘sugarman’ in the movie is the Detroit singer/songwriter Sixto Rodriguez who produced two albums in the early 70’s that flopped on the US market but somehow got traction in the southern hemisphere and in South Africa in particular where he was ‘bigger than Elvis.’  But the singer never knew it and never received any royalties.  Indeed there were rumours that he had committed suicide on stage in his anguish.

The truth lay somewhere else and the movie documents the process of discovery and eventual invitation to perform in concert in South Africa.

The man they found was a humble construction worker (with a degree in Philosophy!) who, even under the new spotlight, seems to be unaffected by it all – still living in the very humble house he has lived in for 40 years.  His three daughters feature in the film and paint a picture of an honest man who even surprised them!

It is a very good film and of interest to people whether they know his music or not.

I was introduced to Rodriguez in 1980 by a friend.  The album she gave me to listen to was Rodriguez’s second album Coming from Reality.  I immediately loved it and there are songs on it that remain some of my favourites all these years later… Climb upon my music and in particular, To whom it may concern.  I purchased Cold Fact, his earlier album, a year or so later.  His social comment and songs from the pit are quite profound.

I chanced upon a cassette tape of Coming from Reality in the late-80’s but only managed to find a CD of it in the last few years.  It is well-worth listening to!  The movie fortunately plays a lot of his songs!

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Les Miserables

Anne and I went to see the movie last night.  It was enthralling and one of those rare movies that betters the hype.  The cinematography was flawless and stunning.  The passion was perfectly captured.  The music was wonderful and the singing, while mixed in quality at times (deliberately as I understand the singing was recorded ‘live’), was amazing because it came from a cast of such superb actors.  The storyline was always understandable (less so with the two stage version I have been to in the past) – all those little and sometimes oblique nuances became clear through the way the film was directed.
Clearly outstanding was Anne Hathaway – her ‘from the pit’ rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” was both harrowing and spine-tingling… I shed some tears… for me, she stole the show and nothing that followed (a few hours!) reached that height, although Samantha Bark’s Eponine nudged close.  I enjoyed Eddie Redmayne’s Marius (I always find that this guy surprises and steps up to new heights as an actor) and Hugh Jackman was also outstanding.  The children, Daniel Huttlestone and Isabelle Allen were also wonderful.
Clearly, the gathering of an exceptional cast of actors as the first step was the right move – that they could sing was obviously necessary and that we didn’t know they could sing so well was fantastic!  This was movie not stage – the camera was frequently zoomed in closely to the faces of the actors – they needed to be able to act!  In light of that close filming, the costuming and makeup people deserve all and any awards!
That the movie is also a witness to the power of God’s grace at work (and the cost of following the way of Christ) is the icing on the top of an already fantastic cake.
Rave, rave, rave!!!  One of those must see movies!
An excellent article on the theological politics of Les Miserables by Richard Beck,that my mate Bruce Hamill pointed me to, is well-worth a read: http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.co.nz/2013/01/the-political-theology-of-les-miserables.html

“Hobbitses”

Gollum in Wellington

I sloped off mid-morning to indulge in a sit in the dark for the first installment of The Hobbit.  It was wonderful in a Lord of the Rings type of way.  The similarities in story and style are understandable – same author (Tolkien), same film-maker (Peter Jackson and crew), same country (NZ looking wonderful though often foreboding), same music sometimes as well.
But well done it is and I am committed to seeing the trilogy through.
Highlights: Gollum – what a treasure of torn and tortured humanity he is; Martin Short Freeman as Bilbo – inspirational and adds some depth and humility that Elijah Wood’s Frodo never managed in LTR; NZ – rich landscapes and wonderful cinematography as we expect; Peter Jackson – nice touches – the movement of moths in and out of the sleeping dwarf were just what we like about you; Barry Humphries in his best role yet; Neil Finn’s closing track – superb as always; and a few scenes in particular – dwarves on a spit, some wonderful flight sequences, and the assortment of horrible monsters that lurk beneath… nice!