Let’s Get Lost - Bruce Weber interview
And all that jazz
Kaleem Aftab talks to legendary photographer and filmmaker Bruce Weber about his reissued documentary on jazz pioneer Chet Baker
Sitting in Cannes on the French Riviera seems like the perfect place to chat to Bruce Weber about his 1989 documentary on jazz musician Chet Baker, Let’s Get Lost, which is getting a UK cinema re-release this fortnight. After all, Baker lived in Cannes and many of the cool black and white images that create the aesthetic of the documentary were shot here. 62 year-old Weber is known for his portraits, be they his photographic stills or films about his favourite people, or even about his dogs.
Like a good wine though, Let’s Get Lost has matured with age and Weber admits that when watching his documentary today it’s a totally different experience to how he felt when he made it: ‘Your perspective definitely changes. You look at your own films and you remember things that happened to you when you made them. You look at your films and think how would you do them differently now. I almost feel like a film is never over, just like a photograph is never over. I’m always thinking about it. When I make a film, I watch it and obviously I’m living completely in it and then I take a break from it before I go back to it again. I always love that break because it makes me see the film in a new way. That was the exciting thing when I heard the film was being released again. A lot of people who knew Chet and saw the film will maybe see the film in a different way now.’
Weber is glad that even today, when people think about Baker’s music, the word that comes to mind is ‘seduction.’ But twenty years is a long time in the music business and Weber is the first to admit that jazz has suffered since the death of Baker: ‘Jazz clubs can be found on the high streets now and a lot of jazz musicians are forced to do certain kinds of music that is more commercial and less inspired.’
It’s been two years since the filmmaker visited a jazz club himself. Indeed the last time he tried to do so, in Miami, he was disappointed to discover that it had been shut down.
Watching the black and white smoke-filled images of Let’s Get Lost does bring bring to mind the Calvin Klein adverts that made Weber famous outwith the pages of GQ and Rolling Stone. It’s what many would call Weber’s signature style, although the man himself begs to differ. ‘I have a different style in all the things I do,’ Weber protests. ‘I work for a lot of different people and it isn’t always my own gig, so I often have to interpret what my clients do in some way, but I always try to put my own stamp and my own interpretation on it. I hope that my pictures are always getting better.’
Weber’s bread and butter remains the photographs he takes for the world’s leading fashion magazines, but, four years on from his paean to his dogs, A Letter to True, he’s back creating another celluloid portrait: ‘At the moment, I’m trying to finish my film on Robert Mitchum. It’s part-fiction and part-documentary and Bob is in it the whole time.’
Let’s Get Lost, Cameo, Edinburgh and selected release from Fri 6 Jun.