Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Cocksucker Blues (1972)

As it was likely to happen and eventually it did, the most notorious documentary about a rock group ever made never got a chance for a public release. While an artistic vision of Robert Frank embodied in "Cocksucker Blues" doesn't offer any justification itself, it's potentially damaging effects on the image of the group who ordered it, definitely do. Despite coming through as one of the grittiest documentaries you'll ever see, it grabs The Rolling Stones by the balls handing these lads over on a hot smokin' plate. However it's more than that as one of the most famous photographers of the last century and a real Beat Generation documentarist not only shot ravishing footage of famous British rock stars, but also stamped his persona on the reel. What he said about "Cocksucker Blues" afterwards appears very significant too: What goes on on the tour was worse than what you see. Even if after watching the movie it hits as a strong statement, it's probably true anyway.

Although definitely a masterpiece of beat cinema, it was actually made when Beat Generation cohorts have already burnt out as comets while the remaining ones – whose pieces of life-as-art have flown freely around and inspired the others – joined the second circuit of culture. Still, it might be seen as the ultimate prank of counterculture's godfathers. "Cocksucker Blues" was initially ordered and produced by Marshall Chess, the president of freshly started Rolling Stones Records and filmed on multiple locations in United States, which The Rolling Stones were passing on their Exile On Main Street '72 Tour. Being first US tour of the group since 1969, when they played infamous gig on Altamount Higway in California (during which 4 people died), the expectations of the American public were very high. It shows clearly in the movie when die-hard fans are being interviewed outside local venues sometimes declaring their need of seeing the group is strongest than will to live... My life is half-wrecked anyway – we get to hear from one of the hippie burnouts.

"Cocksucker Blues" underground fame has been rising for a long time and finally achieved a real cult status. It's scarcity helped! First screening of the film in 1976 was closed to the public as Robert Frank has got involved in a long lawsuit over the rights to it's release with The Rolling Stones themselves – musicians tried to block it, scared to death by it's nihilistic agenda. The court ruled in favour of Frank's demand eventually – the movie could have been shown... but only if director was present in person. This ruling obviously stopped it's theatrical release and was a primal reason why "Cocksucker Blues" never made to DVD. As screenings became very rare, the only existing copy of the movie was finally bootlegged (as usually by these cool anonymous film lovers) and effectively circles around in the Internet today. This is our luck as this shit is a real must-see for those who have a passion for drug fueled madness rarities from the epoch of spiraling hedonism.

Robert Frank's insider, homemade 16 mm style is a foggy tunnel of casually edited scenes from the tour. A camera jumps in and dives into the hotel rooms where The Stones sleep and do drugs, where they fuck and play cards, where they drink and mumble to the camera... usually strung out or zipping up their pants after a good dick wetting, or just waiting for a quick fix and a bottle of whisky to be delivered. The king of decadence and intravenous drug use quickly pops forward – it's Keith Richards, who occasionally rumbles around throwing TV sets from hotel balconnies for fun. Otherwise he's just getting fucked on junk, continually cooked on demand by one of his skinny girlfriends. In one of the best scenes he cannot even stand... he's just there on a bench zonked out like a can of mushed peas, leaning on his girl who's equally wasted.

Except hotel footage, The Stones are captured on stage usually giving a top notch performance. When they join forces with Stevie Wonder and his band, the scene goes on fire while Uptight becomes Satisfaction and Mick grabs Stevie and together they kick off a live soul dance to a romping, cracking-ass work of extended brass, rhythm and guitar section. Steamy stuff, which becomes a cloud of blurriness when band comes off stage to get loaded all over again. Frank catches genuine moments of ultimate bendover as Mick Jagger gets so washed up that his monologues become nothing more than worn humming without any sense or clue. In the meantime roadies go on a frenzy of fixing their veins or coke snorting with occasional group fucking – a famous scene of screwing stripped groupies on a private plane would be probably enough to wake up most of The Stones fans. We even get some famous drug fiends featured – Terry Southern is cleaning his nose passing the bump to Tina Turner and then being involved in a long chat over precious qualities of white powder. Mick Jagger comes through as a coke fan too... but from time to time he'll pass a joint and get hungry.

60's were over for The Rolling Stones, guys! Hard stuff dominates in "Cocksucker Blues" and while lads are tumbling down, their golden period wears off, they get to be seen as a bunch of not so highly aspiring rock'n'rollers with simple vices. Frank's approach is great as it doesn't sugarcoat the shit! His film is very dark and gloomy lacking any voice-over with the only exception being a quote from William S. Burroughs in the end of the movie. A very witty choice indeed as the life of the band has just become a non-stop sex and drug party with rollercoaster amplitude of moods and sliding concentration on music matter. Occasional, non-verbal commentary like showing TV with '72 presidential campaign going on or dexedrine ad, fills this picture of a killing music tour by the biggest rock stars remained on stage. You wanna find out what The Stones got into when the 60's went down crashing? Just grab this and forget about other documentaries.

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