Saturday, September 15, 2012

Universal longing in "The search for "Sugar Man"'

A few words can sometimes capture the feelings of a whole nation.  “Blood, sweat, and tears…” – words that enshrined the thoughts of many people in Britain at terrifying moment.  But when those words were thrown out into the public arena they enabled a whole people to join in a unity of feeling, a collective sense of who they were and what they faced together.  A few words transformed the disparate feelings of many individuals into the conviction of a nation:  as a people they must, and they would, stand together despite the obvious cost.  

The process by which private sensibilities are brought together into a common conviction is a kind of imaginative miracle.  It is worth asking how it works.  Inner depths of feeling are evoked by a particular poignant phrase – this a wonder worth examining closely.   

But the phrase that works powerfully in one setting may not work in another.   To understand the difference requires explication:  the history of all the fears and resentments and outrages that have piled up through the years becomes a reservoir of buried sentiments that can be awakened by a single event, a single utterance, a song.     

Tonight Rita and I went to see a film about a simple musician, a gifted balladeer, whose brilliance was missed in his own country but discovered by a whole nation elsewhere.  The simple ballads of loneliness, grief, despair produced by an unknown individual galvanized the strong feelings of  thousands of young people elsewhere.  His aching outrage at a broken world gave expression to feelings that they shared and enabled them to experience together their common  frustration, for their world also was grievous.  Carefully chosen chords and phrases objectified the feelings of thousands -- but in a different world.  

Anyone who wants to see how an objective form – music – can be made to stand for the feelings of a whole nation must see “The search for ‘Sugar Man’”.  

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