Monday, July 29, 2013

Film Recommendation of the Week...

Beware of Mr. Baker
Release Date-November 28, 2012.
Running time-1 Hour 40 Minutes.

Drum legend Ginger Baker is featured here in all his ragged, self-indulgent glory. As a documentary, this film scores high marks for getting it absolutely right, focusing on the subject without veering into sentimentalist tripe or anarchic chaos. This seemed a tall task given that in the very first scene we are privy to Baker breaking the nose of filmmaker Jay Bulger for having the audacity to tell him he was off to interview the people he's left behind like so much residual dust back in jolly old England.

The human shrapnel from Baker's life is legendary. He has abandoned wives, children, and has been kicked or chased out of virtually every country he's lived in. He suffered years of heroin abuse, grossly mismanaged his money, and at the advanced age of seventy-three, when most people who are fortunate enough to still be alive should be enjoying their golden years, Baker is currently on tour only because he's so fucking completely broke. He suffers from degenerative arthritis and needs medication just to be able to get around. But he still has the energy to piss people off and be a complete and total asshole, which ironically seems to be his only saving grace.

Cream during their heyday-

Baker on the skins-

Baker interviewed for the documentary in his then-home in South Africa-

Baker, despicable character as he is, must be remembered for being the driving force behind the 20th Century's seminal rock band Cream. The trajectory of their meteoric rise and catastrophic fall took a little over two years to complete (July 1966 to November 1968, officially ending with the historic farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall in England on November 26th of that year), but their influence lives on. As it should, considering that the wankers who dare call themselves rock bands nowadays can't hold a candle to bands like Cream. Baker, along with bassist Jack Bruce and guitarist Eric Clapton, were rock's very first power trio, the idea behind this concept being you start with three bad motherfuckers and you go out and kick ass. This is exactly what Cream did. During their brief spell, ass was kicked in abundance.

But, like everything in Baker's life, it didn't last long. There seems to be no reason for the cantankerousness except for the obvious fact that homeboy was born with a serious personality disorder. Either that or all those bombs the Nazis dropped on London must have fucked him up as a kid, or the loss of his father during the war. Whatever happened, it's too late to undo all the damage he's done to the people in his life. Still in all, we can still enjoy the music he left behind, though from watching the film one can only be left with a feeling of resentment that he didn't make the slightest effort to get along with some of the people he played with. We can only imagine what Cream would have developed into if they were together just a few more years.

This film captures the man in his entirety-complicated, angry, intelligent, self-absorbed, incredibly kind to animals yet dismissively brutal with his own children, and talented as all hell. Not the complete douchebag we've come to expect, but certainly cantankerous and given to fits of utter meanness that makes an interview with him like bathing in a pool of barbed wire. Whatever you think of the man, you must give the filmmaker props for capturing this genius completely, with all the contradicting traits that make him impossible to define yet fascinating to watch.

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