Let's Get Lost
The other night I went to our local arthouse theater to catch Let's Get Lost, the 1988 Oscar nominated documentary on Chet Baker. Even having read Jim Ridley's review in the Scene beforehand, the film was not at all what I expected. Directed by noted fashion photographer Bruce Weber, it's more of an ultra-stylized personality profile than the typical kind of life story you'd see on PBS or the History Channel.
Although the film stars Chet himself, his story is mostly told by associates, ex-lovers, and his family. The interview portions that do feature Baker are captivating, although for dramatically different reasons from session to session. In some he's fairly lucid, and he displays a passion for music that is obvious in both his playing and singing. In others, he is so out of it that he practically nods off in front of the camera. He was in his late fifties at the time of filming, but he looks about 80, the result of a smack habit that was monumental even by jazz musician standards. But even though his matinee idol looks had been ravaged by the effects of junk and hard living, his performances are absolutely mesmerizing. There are several throughout the film, but the highlight is undoubtably his take on Elvis Costello's "Almost Blue" at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. Shot just a year before his death, his voice still has the intimacy of his golden years in the 1950s, coupled with the gravity of life experience that few have ever known. As good as the movie is, if you compare this performance with his recordings from the early stages of his career, it tells you all you need to know about the life of Chet Baker.
Chet Baker - "But Not For Me" (mp3) from Chet Baker Sings
The movie was originally scheduled at the Belcourt for a week long engagement, but it's been held over, so you've still got a chance to see it. Check their website for showtimes, as they vary daily. It has never been released on DVD, but if you have money to burn, you can find a VHS copy.