until i experienced "let's get lost," bruce weber's intense 1988 documentary of chet baker's turbulent life, i had only a limited knowledge of the man in his music. i had known him only as a sideman with jazz greats charlie parker and gerry mulligan - and, embarrassingly, had no idea that he sang! "let's get lost" opened my eyes to his legendary career in the 1950's and early 60's - and the tragic slide his life took from those highs.
filmed in black and white, and included significant input from baker himself before his tragic death in 1988 - it was nominated for an academy award for best documentary. the film tells his story via an eclectic group of fans, associates, children, and ex-wives. the jarring juxtaposition of the handsome (and healthy) 1950's baker with the worn, heroin-addicted 1980's version of himself is jaw-dropping.
despite the stark change, it doesn't present him as defeated. in fact, watching the 1988 chet baker intimate performance (albeit with less intensity) with his colleagues in the recording studio was upbeat and inspiring. the haunting parts of this documentary all focused on his children, in the present day, and how little of their lives he was involved in over the years. the saddest, in fact, were their descriptions of the one son who always managed to miss his dad's visits home - and, therefore, hadn't seen him in years.
the documentary illuminates how serious an artist he was and, amazingly, continued to be during his drug-ravaged years. it's worth watching the film just to see the chet baker at his best, in his glory days. despite the almost ad hoc nature of the film, the scenes were selected practically randomly for the narrative, "let's get lost" shows us the artistry of chet baker, and all the sacrifices he made for that art.
this is a "must see" for any fan of classic jazz.
and, for another great jazz documentary, check out: "anita o'day: the life of a jazz singer."