Let’s Get Lost
1988Director: Bruce Weber
Cast: Chet Baker, Flea, Ruth Young
ortured genius is as magnetic as it is repulsive. The chronic anguish it generates in the possessor and the lives of his affiliates is as seductive as the manifestations of his brilliance. If you believe this, then you’ll agree that Chet Baker was a genius, and the movie Bruce Weber made about him in 1988 is really good.
Continuing: if famous jazz musician, junky and crooning renegade are descriptions of a man whose reputation precedes him, then the opening of Let’s Get Lost introduces its subject in the words of the artistic-looking weirdoes who stroll on the Santa Monica beach in the afternoon. When Mr. Weber finally cuts to Chet Baker, riding at night in the back of a convertible, chain smoking and flanked by affectionate women, it becomes obvious that the adoration heaped upon him by strange admirers is in no way hyperbolic, and the depth, curvature and patterns of the crevices on his face suggest it may have been modest.
In structure and approach, Mr. Weber is a master of manipulating information and patient revelations, holding off on character disclosure to yield the maximum possible emotional impact. His approach consistently re-contextualizes and evolves a film where story is disseminated by talking heads and unleashed in a measured and calculated manner. The first thirty minutes of Let’s Get Lost perpetuate the mood of Baker’s beach-combing fans. They are adulatory and romantic, and illustrate an intuitive gift that secured him gigs with Charlie Parker, Jerry Mulligan, a coterie of women, and lots of press.
Initially, Weber restricts the interviews to the more positive accounts of his subject’s life, as told by admirers, acquaintances, and intimates, whose recollections eventually turn sour as they express the pain Baker caused both in himself and those who loved him, negative remembrances that conspire to create a sense of deep conflict. Is it possible to reconcile the positive aspects of Baker’s career and life with the destructive ones? These people who loved as much as they hated him, why the hell did they stick around after he screwed and emotionally abandoned them so many times? When they finally wised up and split, how badly did it hurt?
There probably isn’t a clear answer to any of these questions, and Let’s Get Lost succeeds famously because it declines to provide any. Weber rolls camera, his questions to the interviewees are nearly as ruthless as the footage of their respective answers he refuses to leave on the cutting room floor, materials and insights as merciless as they are honest.
Though Baker has been dead for nearly ten years now, the fragments here compiled of his life continue to cut as deep as the sorrowful tunes he spat from his trumpet and the lines on his face that he died, confounding and moving as lyrics like this:
“I took the hard way, when I tried to get you. You took the soft way, when you said: We'll see. Darling, now I let you do it the hard way, now that you want me.”
Let’s Get Lost is currently playing at the Film Forum in Manhattan.
By: Frank Rinaldi
Published on: 2007-06-25