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'Let's Get Lost'

| Monday, May 19, 2008

One of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, Chet Baker, was -- surprise, surprise -- a total mess in his personal life. "Let's Get Lost" (1988), like a rare recording session passed by hand among the cognoscenti, has accrued a legendary reputation over the years.

Partially, that's because director Bruce Weber had no idea he was shooting Baker's last days -- the heroin-ravaged singer-trumpeter fell out of a window in Amsterdam, trumpet at his side, in 1988.

Weber seemed to have an intuitive ability to capture the essence of this icon of cool -- finding the beauty in both the movie star-like young trumpeter and the withered husk he would become. He cuts fitfully between both like there's no difference.

Baker embodied pre-rock 'n' roll rebelliousness in the '50s as L.A.'s laidback ambassador of West Coast Cool. His trumpet playing had a slow-burn intensity, and his languorous singing style unfurled each song slowly, like smoke from a cigarette.

For jazz aficionados or the merely jazz-curious, this restored 35mm print of "Let's Get Lost" is a pretty remarkable document, and has artistic merit as a film in its own right. It's technically a documentary, but it's shot like a frenetic, impressionistic French New Wave film, in luxurious black and white.

Of course, we also learn about Baker's preference for speedballs (a heroin-and-cocaine cocktail), his stint in jail in Italy, and how he got his teeth knocked out in a robbery while trying to cop heroin. Several of his ex-wives and fellow musicians discuss the man they fell in love with, and being left to pick up the pieces when he was gone.

• Regent Square Theater Additional Information:

'Let's Get Lost'

NR, but R in nature for nudity, language and drug references; Three and a half stars

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