True Stories: 'Searching for Sugar Man' and 'Pina' celebrate artists and art
Plus the real-life mystery 'The Imposter,' the 'Birders' of Central Park, and more
"Searching For Sugar Man" (Sony) is the kind of documentary that makes non-fiction films more interesting than most commercial movies. Detroit singer / songwriter Rodriguez recorded two albums in the early seventies and then disappeared without a trace, just like the albums. Except in South Africa, where (unbeknownst to him) those albums became bestsellers and the voice of rebellion at the height of apartheid. Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul tracks the story and finds a humble, giving man who spent his life raising a family as a construction worker with no regrets or bitterness over missed opportunities or lost fortunes, and a legacy of music that this documentary reintroduced to America.
New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis praises the film: "while occasionally the movie teeters close to embracing bromides about the universal healing power of pop culture, there’s too much sincerity in “Searching for Sugar Man,” too much love and enduring human mystery for cynicism to take hold. In the end Mr. Bendjelloul went looking for a man and found something much greater."
Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary by director Malik Bendjelloul and Rodriguez, the featurette "Making Sugar Man," and "An Evening with Malik Bendjelloul and Rodriguez," a ten-minute Q&A from the film's showing at Tribeca. Also On Demand and available at Redbox.
"Pina" (Criterion) profiles the German choreographer Pina Bausch, who passed away in 2009. Wim Wenders was preparing to make a dance film with her. When she died he turned the project into a tribute to her art, with members of her company performing her great works, including "Café Muller," on stages and sometimes in the streets and in the countryside. Appropriate locations for a works as earthy and primal and muscular as these. Her "dance theater" makes body into emotion, impulses turned into physical expression both raw and graceful, and even on stage they are performed amidst the elements: earth and water, wood and stone. Flesh and muscle become more raw material. In between (and sometimes in the middle of) productions, the dancers talk about their work with Pina. The rest is movement. More reviews here.
Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary by Wim Wenders, deleted scenes with commentary, a featurette, behind-the-scenes footage, and an interview with Wenders, plus a booklet with essays on the film and on Pina Bausch and notes on the dances and dancers in the film.
"The Imposter" (Vivendi) tells the much darker story of a European con artist who, using his youthful appearance, takes on the identity of a missing Texas boys and fools the family into taking him in. Or does he? "The questions intrigue, but as "The Imposter" unfolds, other possibilities come into focus," writes Entertainment Weekly film critic Owen Gleiberman, who adds that " The cast of characters is as creepy as Blood Simple…" DVD, with a featurette. Also On Demand.
"Birders: The Central Park Effect" (Music Box) reveals the wide array of wild birds -- over 200 species -- that stop off in New York's Central Park every year. DVD, with bonus interviews, a video guide, and field guide booklet. Reviews here.
"Beauty is Embarrassing: The Wayne White Story" (Docurama) profiles the career and creations of the visual artist / musician / raconteur, from his early days as a political cartoonist to his design and animation work. DVD, with commentary, a slide show of his art, and a complete one-man show among the supplements. Reviews here.
"Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis" (Anchor Bay), a portrait for the career of the actor and filmmaker, played in the U.S. as part of the Encore Originals series, but it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival. You know how the French love their Lewis. DVD. Reviews here.