TIFF Free Screen: Cocksucker Blues
Invited to document the Stones’ US tour in support of their legendary album Exile on Main Street, Robert Frank forgoes the glamour on stage in favour of the everyday chaos of life in the wings, as the band and their assorted hangers-on (groupies, roadies and journalists) pursue various listless debaucheries to kill the boredom and homesickness of constant travel. Reportedly described by Mick Jagger as “a fucking good film … but if it shows in America we’ll never be allowed in the country again,” Cocksucker Blues remains one of the most raw and unfiltered accounts of life on tour ever recorded.
Director Robert Frank’s unflinching record of life on the road with the Rolling Stones remains one of the most notorious documentaries ever made, and one of the most impossible to see. A legal settlement with the band — who feared that their entourage’s onscreen antics could lead to public embarrassment and/or criminal prosecution — permits it to be screened only in very controlled circumstances (which makes this screening at the Lightbox a priceless rare event). Throughout the film though Jagger and Richards are very protected as whenever something illicit may happen, for example when Jagger goes to snort cocaine through a rolled dollar bill provided by Richards, the camera pans away to other action in the room.
Surrounded in every way by the insanity of excess, even the filmmakers are drawn into the uninhabited lifestyle as they freely participate in the carnival of drugs and sex. From needles being injected and drugs being snorted to a band member in full on coitus in front of the entire band, who coincidentally decide to add an impromptu soundtrack, and another member defrocking all the other ladies on board the band’s private plane, Cocksucker Blues splatters it all on-screen for the audience to see. If you’ve ever wanted to see what a constant diet of rock, drugs, sex and groupie love was like, there is no reason to look any further.
Still as impactful and raw as the day it was recorded, Cocksucker Blues is a must see for fans of The Rolling Stones, aspiring musicians and anybody who has ever wanted to see the real workings of a massively successful band on tour. And the concert footage that is recorded and shown onscreen is also shot very well, capturing the energy of the performance very effectively. Who knows if this will ever screen in Toronto again, especially for free as this is part of the Free Screen series spotlighting Robert Frank, Cocksucker Blues demands a packed house.
Screening Friday January 17th at 6:30 pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Till Next Time
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