SIFF 2012: Beware of Mr. Baker ***1/2

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on June 9, 2012)

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“Ginger Baker influenced me as a musician,” gushes an interviewee, who is quick to add “…but not as a person.” More than any other statement made in Beware of Mr. Baker, that one encapsulates the dichotomous nature of the man who many consider one of the greatest jazz-rock drummers of all time. Mixing archival footage with present-day chats with Baker, as well as observations from family members, admirers and former band mates, director Jay Bulger has assembled a compelling rockumentary that is as kinetic and unpredictably volatile as its subject. It’s probably a good thing that the filmmaker is a former boxer; in the opening scene, the ever-mercurial Baker punctuates his displeasure at some perceived slight by caning him on the nose. By his own admittance, interpersonal skills have never been his forte (he’s currently with the 4th Mrs. Baker). Still, what emerges is a portrait of an artist who literally lives for his art; he remains an absolute motherfucker on those drums because that is exactly what he was put on this earth to do.

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