Magazine article Variety

Beware of Mr. Baker

Magazine article Variety

Beware of Mr. Baker

Article excerpt

Beware of Mr. Baker

Docu

When a documentary begins with its subject using his crutch to deliver a vicious blow to the director's nose, it's reasonably safe to expect less-than-smooth sailing ahead. And sure enough, the teasing possibility that other outbursts may disrupt the uneasy alliance between legendary drummer Ginger Baker and filmmaker Jay Bulger provides an underlying tension to the aptly titled "Beware of Mr. Baker." Winner of the docu jury award at SXSW, this fascinating portrait of the aging rock god as an angry old coot could attract ticketbuyers as well as homevid renters and buyers after fest exposure.

"Beware of Mr. Baker" had its origins in a startlingly candid Rolling Stone interview Baker granted Bulger at the rock legend's sprawling enclave in South Africa (The entrance to the spread is marked by a sign bearing the warning that gives the pic its title.)

A physical wreck after decades of substance abuse and debilitating health issues, Baker nonetheless proved to be of sufficiently sound mind to share numerous anecdotes about his fleeting but enduringly memorable glory days with the supergroups Cream and Blind Faith, along with stories of his other colorful personal and professional misadventures throughout the world.

For the production of the docu, Bulger returned to Baker's retreat, where the rock legend üves with his much younger African wife, her kids and 39 polo ponies. Throughout most of the oncamera interviews, Baker alternates between bemused introspection and acid sarcasm. Told that he is considered the father of punk rock, he snarls, "It should have been aborted."

Baker is nothing if not forthcoming when discussing the exhilarating highs and dispiriting lows of a life journey that has taken him from scaling international pop charts and jamming with Afrobeat artist FeIa Kiiti to wallowing in debt, abandoning wives and children, and nearly killing himself with drugs. (At one point, he laughs but does not smile as he recalls hearing a radio news bulletin inaccurately, but plausibly, reporting his death.)

And while he's willing to take full credit for his wide and lasting influence as a rock drummer - an influence acknowledged during Bulger's interviews with such notables as Charlie Watts, Stuart Copeland and Johnny Rotten - Baker repeatedly indicates that, all things considered, he might have done better to stick to his first love, jazz. …

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