Second Time Around

Let's Get Lost
In the rapturous 1989 black-and-white documentary Let's Get Lost, the visual and emotional fixations of photographer-turned-filmmaker Bruce Weber fuse with the artistry and mystique of jazz-trumpet legend (and vocalist) Chet Baker. The result is an evocation of '50s "cool" -- and its corruption -- that's both downbeat and exhilarating, and genuinely jazzy. Baker cast a chiseled, matinee-idol image on his album covers and photographs; he seemed fearless and chimerical, candid but self-contained. He inspired and haunted Weber. The photographer repays the late jazzman (who died when he fell out of an Amsterdam hotel window in May 1988, on a Friday the 13th) by portraying him as a hero who goes wrong in life while continuing to ply a supple, poignant art. The twilight shots of Baker driving around L.A., with velvety palm trees spread out against a charcoal sky, are seductive and disorienting, like Baker himself. Despite his drug addiction and family problems and terminal carelessness, he remained an alternately hopeful and hopeless romantic.

The film has a fumy, ebbing and flowing ambience that smacks as much of the nightclub as of the movie house. William Claxton's stills capture Baker at his heartthrob peak; the '80s interviews and performance clips, shot by cinematographer Jeff Preiss, delineate the ravages of time. With his provocative boyishness, Baker became as potent a symbol of '50s rebellion as James Dean. But '50s rebels were a peculiar breed -- nonconformity could be an awfully ambiguous program. Let's Get Lost is about what happens to a rebel without a cause when the times no longer define him.

-- Michael Sragow

Let's Get Lost screens Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 11 & 12, at 7 and 9:25 p.m. at the Red Vic, Haight & Clayton. There's an additional 2 p.m. show Wednesday. Tickets are $6. Call 668-3994.

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