Friday, 5 October 2012

LFF: Beware of Mr. Baker Review

Director/Writer: Jay Bulger

Starring: Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton, Charlie Watts, Stewart Copeland, Carlos Santana, John Lydon, Jay Bulger

Plot: A documentary chronicling the life of legendary drummer, Ginger Baker. 

Rock and roll documentaries seem to be flourishing at the moment with recent hit Searching for Sugarman and upcoming films, Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet and Rolling Stones: Crossfire Hurricane. Now with Beware of Mr. Baker, there’s even more material to educate and surprise you about the world of music. Mr. Ginger Baker was the drummer for Cream, Blind Faith, Masters of Reality and The Graham Bond Organisation (to name a few) and one of the greatest of his profession. His legend and persona is perhaps only known with hardcore rock ’n’ roll fans and those born after the 1940s, but this documentary aims to highlight his legacy and to remind the world of his influence.

To walk out of this documentary and eventually forget the image, voice and attitude of Ginger Baker is near-impossible. Director/writer Jay Bulger prods and picks at Baker and his history with such determination so as to keep both Baker and his legend alive and kicking. Often Bulger pokes too hard and the opening sequence of Baker whacking the interviewer’s nose with his metallic cane informs the audience of the vivacity of the subject – a well-travelled man with a wealth of stories, opinions and aversions.

Bulger’s spirited zeal to chronicle Baker’s life is fantastic for the audience wanting to learn of this drummer’s life and to allow for a plentiful amount of quips from Baker (his almost-constant hurl of questions and insults at the young interviewer is incredibly funny and extends to a separate montage during the end credits). Even with a lifetime of alcohol and drug-abuse, Baker still has plenty of witty remarks and a superb memory for his days of superstardom and gradual decline. The line of questions relating to his young life, his introduction to the drums and his famous ascent to celebrity status are punctuated expertly with parallel interviews from Baker’s closest companions (including Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and his first wife Liz Finch) and an incredible array of talking heads including Charlie Watts, Stewart Copeland, Carlos Santana and John Lydon, all giving their two cents about the great Ginger.

Ginger’s life story is not just told with the static view of him slouching in his seat, eyes concealed behind darkly tinted sunglasses, but with animation and colour thanks to David Bell’s illustrations and the archive footage and photographs. It seems commonplace to animate old tales with no pictures or video to accompany it (American: The Bill Hicks Story and Searching For Sugarman adopt that style); Beware of Mr. Baker incorporates a dynamic tone not only from Baker’s persona and stories but also with those striking images to compliment Baker’s dialogue.

It is fascinating to see a man’s sinuous journey through life and admirable for a man who practically achieved what he wanted to achieve. It’s clear to see how many people Ginger Baker influenced along his way from the barrage of celebrity praise, and by Bulger’s own deep-rooted interest into finding out about the loose lunatic. Baker is a tough man to like by the end of the film – his manner has clearly set him back socially, financially, and health-wise – but for those willing to look past the man’s demons, you will find a great deal of talent and an odd charm.  Beware of Mr. Baker is an absorbing, fierce gem of a film that is a must-see for music fans.


By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on LiveforFilms

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