b e w a r e o f m r b a k e r
17th May 2013
30th April 2013
We reviewed Beware of Mr Baker for our London Film Festival 2012 feature a while back but given that it is now released in the UK this month, we thought it was well worth giving the review a tweak and putting it out there again. The more people we can get out to see this documentary the better because we thought it was great. And I can correct all the spelling and grammar mistakes I inexplicably left in the first version.
So where to start? A deranged, horrific, genius, lunatic of a jazz drummer lets a slightly unhinged but very persistent film-maker / fan follow him around and film him whilst prodding him with generally reasonable questions. Needless to say, bloodshed soon follows....
I struggle to review Beware of Mr. Baker with any objectivity because the screening we went to involved an audience full of Ginger Baker fans with a pretty good smattering of Ginger Baker relatives. Which is pretty much as polar as two extremes can be. It also involved a Q&A session with the legend himself and the movie's outgoing writer / director Jay Bulger. It's fair to say this was one of our more extraordinary experiences at the cinema. We will, however, do our absolute best to review the film by itself.
Pretty much one fan's mission to utterly confirm, once and for all, that you should never meet your heroes. The film opens with Baker threatening to kill Bulger and breaking his nose with a cane. As openings go, it's pretty impressive. The film then rewinds and blasts through Baker's career, families, bands and so many fights. Bulger uses a combination of interviews filmed over a couple of years with him asking questions that generally seem to spectacularly irritate his subject but to his credit, he just ploughs on. And that really should be credit with a capital C. Baker is not an easy subject and to be honest, doesn't come across as a particularly nice person. But he is always, always fascinating to watch. In many ways Baker comes across as the typical artist - destructive and seductive in equal measures, driving his jazz-drumming bus through anything and anyone who gets in his way. Including himself.
For a documentarian though, Baker is a gold mine and it’s incredible that Bulger managed to 1. Get Baker to agree to the whole escapade and 2. Survive it intact. His persistence alone it worthy of your money, especially anyone even remotely interested in drums, jazz or rock music. And it’s Bulger’s personality that gives this documentary its flip side. It’s easy to see the destructive genius of Baker but there is also a more personable, generous side. You get the feeling that on his day, Baker could be the best friend you’ve ever had and Bulger does well to bring that out in the film.
This fascinating documentary serves as both a cautionary tale of what can happen if you are such a destructive force and a recommendation of what you can achieve if you are such a destructive force. Just don’t marry a maverick jazz drummer.