Beware of Mr. Baker

Madman drummer Ginger Baker is the subject of director Jay Bulger’s new documentary which will be at Film Forum from November 28 – December 12.

“A loveable rogue” and “a virtuoso madman” are just two of the descriptions about drummer Ginger Baker made in director Jay Bulger’s comprehensive new documentary “Beware of Mr. Baker.” The film is a no holds barred portrait of the incredibly talented but equally self-destructive, rock and roll drummer.   A man whose contemporaries call him “a force of nature” and  “the hammer of God,” Baker is best known as the drummer for the bands “Cream” and “Blind Faith.”

I will admit to not being up on my rock and roll history (although I feel as if I received at least a partial crash course from this movie) so I had no pre-conceived notions about Mr. Baker.  The image I have been given though is one of artistic temperament run wild, to put it mildly.  I was not even through the film’s opening shot when Baker actually assaulted director Bulger with a crutch, bloodying Bulger’s nose.  The reason?  Baker did not want Bulger to interview his contemporaries about him.  One can easily see why.

Baker’s contemporaries include musician Eric Clapton, Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, Stewart Copeland, drummer for The Police, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, the Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten and many others.  While Clapton describes Baker as a complete musician because he can both compose and arrange, he also diplomatically allows that while Baker does have the “gift,” he is anti-social.  Watts observes that whenever Baker would start a band “you think they’ll go on forever, but it’s over in a week.”  Watts’ comment illustrates Baker’s volatile personality, which, at one point, left him broke because no band wanted the trouble that came along with hiring the talented drummer.  Another interviewee says of Baker, “He influenced me as a drummer, but not as a person.”

Bulger does an efficient job of keeping Bulger’s biographical trajectory straight.  He takes us from Baker’s boyhood, in Nazi bombed London during WWII, through decades of heroin addiction as Baker moved from country to country and band to band.  “Beware of Mr. Baker” uses generous amounts of archival performance and interview footage plus modern day interview segments at Baker’s current home in South Africa, where he lives with his fourth wife and her two daughters.  A very telling moment comes when Bulger asks the current Mrs. Baker if her husband has been a good stepfather.  Her very long pause, which requires prompting from Bulger before she gives an answer best described as lackluster, is very telling.

“Beware of Mr. Baker” is a wild ride through the life and times of a Hell raising rock and roll icon, now a grouchy codger and occasionally still violent personality.   The documentary opens at Film Forum on November 28 and runs through December 12.  For more information go to http://www.filmforum.com.

“Beware of Mr. Baker,” director Jay Bulger, 2012,

SnagFilms / Insurgent Media, 92 minutes

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on November 20, 2012, in Documentary and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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