'Hot Sugar's Cold World': Film Review

Courtesy of Amplify Releasing
Strictly for fans.

Adam Bhala Lough's documentary provides a fly-on-the-wall look into the life of musician Nick Koenig.

In the opening minutes of Adam Bhala Lough's documentary about Nick Koenig, we're informed that the musician/music producer, better known by the moniker Hot Sugar, is a "modern Mozart." If you buy into that assessment, you may find something of value in Hot Sugar's Cold World. If not, and presumably there's a very good chance of the latter, the film will strike you as a misguided vanity project.

The filmmaker, who's previously made films about such musicians as Lee "Scratch" Perry and Lil Wayne, is clearly simpatico with his subject, who's treated as a genius for his penchant for recording real-world sounds to incorporate into his music. To be fair, Koenig has achieved considerable success, including a Grammy nomination and collaborations with the likes of The Roots and Das Racist. But viewers who are not already fans are unlikely to be converted by the musical samples played throughout the film.

Read more 'By the Sea': AFI Review

Early in the film, Koenig, who looks like he really needs to get outside more, is seen interacting with his rapper girlfriend, Kitty, described as an "Internet sensation" (isn't everybody at this point?). When the couple later splits up, their breakup, like their relationship, is naturally played out on social media for everyone to enjoy and, of course, comment on.

The depressed Koenig heads to Paris, where he stays in his late, Holocaust survivor grandmother's lavish apartment featuring a leather-bound set of the complete works of the Marquis de Sade. He roams through the city pursuing and recording unusual sounds, whether clapping his hands in Notre Dame Cathedral or clacking together human bones in the catacombs like a deranged maracas player.

Interested in the sound of silence, he expresses a desire to record inside a morgue, only to have his assistant be rebuffed when she makes the absurd request. Later he manages to find something approximate, recording the silence of a funeral parlor room inhabited only by the corpse of his recently deceased friend, an elderly, heavily tattooed World War II veteran.

Read more Oscars Playbook: 45 Films Kicking Off the Awards Conversation

The film includes several obviously staged sequences, such as a segment in which Koenig and his friend, actor Martin Starr (Silicon Valley), attempt to buy illegal fireworks from a shady character played by Pat Healy (Great World of Sound). Among the other celebrities making cameo appearances are director Jim Jarmusch, rapper Kool A.D., and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose chat with Koenig about the properties of sound mainly proves that he'll show up in front of a camera anytime, anywhere.

It may be Hot Sugar's Cold World, but that doesn't mean we have to live in it.

Production: Rough House Pictures
Director: Adam Bhala Lough
Screenwriters: Adam Bhala Lough, Hunter Stephenson
Producers: David Gordon Green, Adam Bhala Lough, Hunter Stephenson
Executive producers: David Gordon Green, Jody Hill, Danny McBride
Directors of photography: Patrice Lucien Cochet, Chris Messina
Editors: Elliot Dickerhoof, Aaron Morris
Composer: Nick Koenig

Not rated, 85 minutes

comments powered by Disqus