When watching a film and confronted with a frenetic editing style the thought often springs to mind that this technique is being used to hide the lack of anything very interesting. In total contrast Director Jay Bulger and editor Abhay Sofsky have used this style to great effect on the illuminating documentary Beware Of Mr Baker, writes Ben Unwin.
The sense of movement across the screen reflects perfectly the bizarre brilliance of Ginger Baker’s drumming style and a musician ripe for revaluation. Using archive, interviews and animation, the screen practically pulses in sync with a style of drumming that (although taking influence from legendary jazz drummers) came to revolutionise the role of the drummer in rock music.
It has often been a theory of this reviewer that the excessive lifestyle of many rock musicians is a result of either being desperate for additional limelight or just because they could behave that way, as no one was willing or able to stop them. When watching Beware of Mr Baker I was left thinking that Baker’s wild behaviour would have been just as visible if he had been stacking the shelves at Poundstretcher, instead of being one of the greatest (if not the greatest) rock Drummers of all time. Not many documentaries can have started with the main protagonist smashing the filmmaker in the face with a walking stick but director Jay Bulger leaves us in no doubt as to the thematically chaotic nature of his film with this opening assault.
Starting as a fascinating look into post war Britain we follow Bakers journey from street hoodlum to aspiring Jazz drummer, rock legend and (I kid you not!) polo aficionado. To be brutally honest if you wrote the synopsis of this hugely entertaining documentary as a feature script it would probably be discarded as hugely implausible.
Breaking America, groupies, absentee father, multiple wives, heroin addiction, hanging with Fela Kuti and documenting African musical culture all feature in a film about a restless soul whose single linking feature is an ability to play the drums like no one else.
Throughout a succession of illuminating interviews with legendary musicians such as Eric Clapton, Steve Windwood and Charlie Watts this is a fascinating study of a true individual and a man who changed the way we think of rock drumming forever.
Does this film really tell us the true nature of the contradictory individual that is Ginger Baker? I don’t know that it does but then I don’t think that is entirely possible. Eric Clapton remarks that for all the time they spent together he probably does not really know him and therefore perhaps neither do we? It’s one hell of a good journey though.