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.
Originally published as part of the Bloor Cinema Column at DORK SHELF
How To Make A Book With Steidl
Meet publisher and printer Gerhard Steidl: revered and sought after worldwide for his ability to make the most exquisite art books imaginable. Using profits from his work with such long-time clients as Chanel, Günter Grass and Karl Lagerfeld, Steidl underwrites his publishing of limited edition books with the world’s best photographers. Superb cinematography frames the scenes between Steidl and the artists in action, revealing the playful, yet exacting process of their creative collaborations. Steidl is constantly in motion, travelling to London, Paris, New York, Vancouver and the deserts of Qatar, allowing us seductive glimpses into the rarely seen homes and studios of such renowned artists as Robert Adams, Robert Frank and Jeff Wall.
How To Make A Book is an intriguing portrait of a fiercely determined and his all-encompassing fascination and obsession with paper and ink (kind of like this week’s other film about Tomi Ungerer). At times a self-deprecating master schmoozer, at other times a grumpy and vindictive control freak, Steidl is never a boring character. During the course of the film we also traverse a product’s lifespan, from conceptual beginnings to the final product of Joel Sternfeld’s book i Dubai, and see how Steidl’s exacting standards, with all the bickering, infighting and frustrations included, work in driving creating and producing a unique and bold final product.
Audiences who invest in the journey and the man will be captivated and engrossed, though the film will likely be too dry and one sided for those who are turned off by Steidl’s OCD tendencies.
Till Next Time
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