The Editorial: Let’s Get Lost / Chet Baker


The Editorial: Let’s Get Lost / Chet Baker

Bruce Weber’s 1980s documentary on the life of Chet Baker is imperfect and messy and visceral. And brilliant. Chet Baker himself was a glorious disaster. His life was a drug-fuelled tragedy, truly lived. He’s the type of person who most certainly couldn’t be a product of today. Life has become too antiseptic. He’s too unpretentious. The values that were Chet Baker are long dead: he was compulsive, dedicated and straightforward. But he lived. Military tours. A year in an Italian prison. Mountains of drugs. Women. And a creative life lived through brass instruments and a serene voice.

It feels, strangely, that we’ve taken several steps backwards since Baker’s time. This film’s genuine emotion is unmistakable. And although the hip kids of today do a pretty good job of aping its style, the original remains, with its imperfect and unrestrained beauty. All the more so in retrospect. But beyond the patina, there is a substance here. A joie de vivre that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere nowadays.

Our selves are mishmashes of conflicts, born out by superficial behaviour. Since the beginning of Western civilization we’ve partied and acted posh and copied the dress and manner of halfwit celebrities in a desperate attempt to be… who, exactly? But today, as culture, fashion and art fragments, a creeping sense of genericness is impossible to avoid. The Chinese have dragged American hyper-consumerism to dizzying new heights. They mix age-old pop song formulas with glossy production to make pleasant, one-size-fits-all muzak that lulls listeners into submission. Blithe, unquestioning submission. Nobody fights back.

Even in behind-the-times boutique Italy, we buy everything we eat at crowded, characterless chain supermarkets. Everyone has something to say, but as Twitter’s epic information gathering proves, we all say the same things in the end. Drone. Overload. Fast food. Fast fashion. Perhaps our fatigue stems from the spin media has thrust upon a string of revolt-disaster-war-austerity. Or from sanguine and hollow messages of hope. (Hope for?) And next year is 2012. Tick-tock.

And the gravitation of connoisseur towards the infinitely more human texture of analogue speaks volumes about films like Weber’s. Across mediums, the look and feel of works made way-back-when possess a uniqueness and a truth that is just plain absent today. Light to image to paper by mechanical and chemical process.. Music from instrument to media to ear without digital wizardry. Magic is always lost in electronic translation. Silicone augmentations (of all types) are fake. Silicone chips facilitate fake. And fake is pretty damn unfulfilling.

But, can we bridge the gap between the visceral, unfiltered life of the dark old days with hyper-generic today? LIBYA. TSUNAMI. DRESS €9.99 AT H&M. GAGA. ECONOMIC COLLAPSE. GUCCI. WAR. FAMINE. NUCLEAR DISASTER. Can we get past it? Excess and drugs and the inevitable hangover taught us a lesson or two, but you’d think we’d have emerged with a new lease on life. Not blinders.

When it comes down to it, kids, we really need to get back some of this raw, real life. Experimentation. Fuck ups. Bruises and scars. Life lived in horrifying three dimensions with wind-in-face sunburns and morning hangovers. Let’s get out there. Because there’s nothing more distinguishing than well and truly living.

Tag Christof