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Smack Up 

Wednesday, Jan 16 2008
Brando, Sinatra, Dean, Elvis -- those were some cool cats, but they weren't as cool as Chet Baker. The great jazzman had the Adonis features of a movie star and the world on a string, yet his music was steeped in a doomed romanticism. His too-sensitive-for-this-world act was catnip to the chicks, but heroin was his catnip. Baker's career as a trumpet player and vocalist took a back seat to horse in the '60s, and although he subsequently regained his form (without jettisoning the junk) he was an exquisite ruin by the time fashion photographer and filmmaker Bruce Weber caught up with him in the mid-'80s. Weber's surpassingly beautiful black-and-white documentary, Let's Get Lost, stands as a spellbinding tribute to a world-class screw-up. Dead honest about Baker's mistreatment of women who fell too hard for him, it still manages to be sympathetic. Maybe it's those sad, gorgeous shots of the hard-worn Baker riding around L.A. in a convertible with a pretty young one, the sun bouncing off his shades. Unavailable in the U.S. in any home-video format since its 1988 release, Let's Get Lost is back in a newly restored print. More than a remarkable portrait of an artist, it's a model of the documentary as art.
Jan. 18-24, 2008

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Michael Fox


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