Saturday, June 30, 2007
The Fine Young Cannibal
Somewhere in the throne room of the Beautiful Loser Hall of fame there sits a double-sided bust of one Chet Baker, with whatever trumpet he had in his possession at the time of his death in 1988 lying nearby. The bust is finely etched, one side the profile of a farm fed Okie kid with alabaster features and the look of a dreamy angel, aglow with a future sparkling with promises, the other side craggy, dissolute and ravaged--a dope fiend’s visage, collapsed and pummeled by time. Bruce Weber’s Baker documentary Let’s Get Lost was initially released in 1988 to a heady mix of consternation and disinterest. Photographed in luminescent black and white, the movie goes for the obvious in one way-juxtaposing the simple visual contrast of the early china doll-meets-boxer Baker look with the then ancient 57-year-old wastrel, yet it pulls the rug out by refusing to do the straight docu route, being short on performance footage and factual narration, spending an inordinate amount time following the nearly comatose Baker around Santa Monica in the company of unconnected hepcats like Flea, Lisa Marie, and Chris Issak. Newly reissued, the movie is something of a minor revelation. It now seems apparent that Weber’s intention all along, in lieu of piecing together a flesh and blood tale (a virtually impossible task with the vampiric, contradictory, ever drifting Baker), Let’s Get Lost (click on link)is an extended riff, a blast of cinematic impressionism, a deconstructed look at the dirty dreams of showbiz. As one of Baker’s jazz cats later commented in author James Gavin’s excellent Deep In a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker, the movie is perfect because Chet’s lying about everybody and everybody’s lying about Chet, epitomizing his work and life in a movie-nutshell. If you can catch this in a theater during its limited re-release, do it up.