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  •  REVIEW: LET'S GET LOST

    Let's Get Lost

    Horn-ography

    Bruce Weber's "Let's Get Lost" is a tantalizing documentary about the high price of fleeting fame told through a near perfect collage of sights and sounds.

    By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
    Offoffoff.com

    (Originally reviewed at Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema in June 1989.)

    "Everybody has a story about Chet Baker. He was bad, trouble, and beautiful."

      
    LET'S GET LOST
    Written and directed by: Bruce Weber.
    Produced by: Bruce Weber.
    Cast: Chet Baker, Carol Baker, Vera Baker, Paul Baker, Dean Baker, Missy Baker, Dick Bock, William F. Claxton, Hersh Hamel, Chris Isaak.
    Cinematography: Jeff Preiss.
    Edited by: Angelo Corrao.
    Music by: Chet Baker.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    "Let's Get Lost," Bruce Weber's visually thematic biography of '50s jazz musician Chet Baker, might well be the ultimate story, an evocatively photographed, seamlessly edited collage of sights and sounds.

    The life and times of this jazz trumpeter and vocalist, whose troubled career culminated in a fall to his death from an Amsterdam hotel window in May of 1988, is chronicled through a variety of cinematic techniques. Candid interviews with an ensemble of friends, relatives, and fellow musicians, stills, archive footage of Baker himself, in concert and out, moody, mesmerizing, iconoclastic. Baker's whisper-like vocals permeate the background like cigarette smoke, ever present, softly punctuating the blank spaces. It's a near perfect blend of styles, yet it's never showy nor pushy.


      
    There's a lot of hate in this movie; few people have much respect for this burned out, unlikable shell of a man. What's so compelling about the film [however] is that, as unappealing as Baker is, his music is anything but.  

      
    In his 20s, Baker was the James Dean of the jazz world, his boyish good looks as much a part of his image as his hypnotic trumpet playing and soulful, lyrical style. Working initially with the likes of Charlie Parker and Gerry Mulligan, Baker quickly branched out on his own. Soon his angular face was gracing record jackets everywhere. He even appeared in a number of movie bit parts, such as 1955's "Hell's Horizon" (billed as "Chet Baker and his trumpet"), as well as a number of disposable Italian teen-flicks.

    Almost forty years later, the change is dramatic. Baker's once Adonis-like looks are wizened — wrinkled creases of skin abound; aged, hollowed out eyes; bloodless cheeks; a leather-faced, lipless junkie. Baker knew better than anyone that you gotta pay the price if you wanna play the blues.

    Baker's Midas touch on stage became leprous in his private life. A compulsive womanizer, he left a legacy of cast-off wives and embittered offspring in his wake. There's a lot of hate in this movie; few people have much respect for this burned out, unlikable shell of a man. Even his mother, when asked if Chet was a good son, cannot answer in the affirmative.

      
      Baker's once Adonis-like looks are wizened now — wrinkled creases of skin abound; aged, hollowed out eyes; bloodless cheeks; a leather-faced, lipless junkie.
      
    What's so compelling about the film is that, as unappealing as Baker is, his music is anything but. The only time we feel he's being totally honest with us is when he's performing. Then, and only then, do we feel the man's sincerity, his quietly hushed and sexy vocal style totally absorbing the viewer. The allure of his stage persona compared to the shambles of his personal life is staggering.

    In one scene, Baker recalls the names of other jazz greats who have succumbed to the lure of drugs. The list seems endless. But this is not an anti-drug movie. It's a film about contrasts, about the profound affect one man had on the lives of others. Director Weber has dug to the crux of the issue so adeptly that at times it's hard to believe that a lot of this film was shot before Baker's death.

    At Cannes, nearing the film's end, Baker observes, "At those other places you could hear a pin drop." So when he calls for silence before performing his final, haunting ballad, "Almost Blue," you likely could hear a pin drop. That silence, and the performance which follows, is a fitting elegy to a genius that lived hard yet made it all look so easy.

    JUNE 4, 2008
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Let's Get Lost:

  • Chet Baker Lets Get Lost   from H. Thomas Taylor, Aug 30, 2012

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