The captivating new music documentary Beware of Mr Baker — profiling British drummer Ginger Baker who rose to fame in the 1960s — begins with dramatic images of the film’s director, Jay Bulger, being attacked by the elderly musician with his cane.
“I’m going to put you in hospital!” screams an angry Baker.
It’s a confrontation that took place when the drummer, now in his 70’s, declared he was unhappy that the director was going to interview some of the musicians and individuals who’d been part of his life.
If Beware of Mr. Baker is anything to go by then that colorful altercation was vintage Ginger Baker. The British musician emerges from the film as hugely talented but very cantankerous.
Ginger Baker really came to prominence with the rise of the rock supergroup Cream in 1966. As a drummer he’s in a class of his own – one of the best of his generation. Although he’s long worked alongside rock musicians, he sees himself more as a jazz drummer.
The documentary includes interviews with several of Baker’s illustrious past collaborators including fellow Cream founding members Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce – as well as his relatives. Nearly all testify to the greatness of his talent, but many also lament his self-destructiveness.
Even though he is curmudgeonly, the film’s American director clearly won him over. Baker isn’t garrulous, but when Bulger does get him to talk there are some arresting revealing moments.
The director has put together an honest film, which relies on a rich selection of interviewees and strong archive footage to create one of this year’s better music documentaries. You really feel you know Ginger Baker after watching this film – but you’re also left with the feeling that you may not want to meet him.
Beware of Mr. Baker is playing for a two week run from Wednesday, November 28 through Tuesday, December 11 at the Film Forum in New York.