For the uninitiated, Detroit musician Sixto Rodriguez released two albums at the beginning of the 1970s that set out his stall as a Dylanesque psych-folkie with a social conscience. Although critically lauded, his records failed to sell and he was dropped from his label, and from there he faded into obscurity.
So went his story in the US, but, as this documentary reveals, his anti-establishment songs struck a chord in Apartheid-era South Africa – so much so that he became, according to one interviewee here, bigger than Elvis and the Stones. With his legendary status came stories of a rock ‘n’ roll death (self-immolation, blowing his brains out on stage etc), but further digging by two South Africans, a journalist and a record-store owner, toward the end of the 1990s revealed otherwise. Rodriguez’s story is described by one who was there as “too strange to be true”, and Malik Bendjelloul’s film is certainly an intriguing mix of detective drama and fairy tale.
It’s just a shame that the enigmatic man at its centre is such a vague, fleeting presence – for the most part it is left to his songs, family and co-workers to speak for him. Make no mistake, the story of Sixto Rodriguez is an incredible one, but you can’t help feeling that something has been lost in this telling.
Daniel Craig effortlessly makes James Bond his own as the 21st movie in the series goes back to basics for a resoundingly entertaining spy adventure. GoldenEye director Martin Campbell injects some Bourne-style grit into the proceedings, upping the violence content (the opening sequence, shot in grainy black and white, is particularly brutal). He also strips Bond of much of the slightly camp humour – thus no appearance from gadget-man Q.
The plot is essentially an origins story, as a rough-around-the-edges Bond gains his two zeros (the two authorised kills he needs for his infamous licence) before tackling villain Le Chiffre (a splendidly thin-lipped Mads Mikkelsen) in a game of high-stakes poker. Craig’s humanised, more flawed interpretation of the role balances Campbell’s physical direction and co-writer Paul Haggis’s sparing wit, while Eva Green provides an alluring love interest. Apart from a chaotic and overlong last act, this is a triumphant new beginning.
The Wrestler director Darren Aronofsky’s dark, hypnotic study of obsession is set in the punishing world of ballet, where serious hard graft doesn’t always guarantee results and stardom is perhaps at its most fleeting. Natalie Portman plays Nina, an aspiring lead with a New York dance company, who’s determined to win the coveted role of the Swan Queen in an upcoming production of Swan Lake. However, the ballet’s director (Vincent Cassel) is sceptical. Though Nina is perfect for the virginal Swan Queen, the shy, repressed dancer struggles to impress him as the Black Swan, her sexually magnetic alter ego. The arrival of the talented and rebellious Lily (Mila Kunis) raises the stakes, and as Nina wrestles with her demons, the film hurtles towards an exhilarating and disturbing climax that will please fans of Roman Polanski’s early work. Logic and originality are sometimes lacking, but Aronofsky’s bravura direction and Portman’s sincere, mesmerising performance paper over those particular cracks.