Monday, January 11, 2010

Cocksucker Blues @ the Brooklyn Museum

Robert Frank's unreleased documentary on the Rolling Stones' 1972 tour of the US and Canada made a very rare showing yesterday in Brooklyn. Although the band sued Frank to keep Cocksucker Blues out of the public eye, the auteur was able to retain the right to show it in a museum setting in his presence. While Frank was too infirm to attend this event, he gave Gail Buckland, curator of the Brooklyn Museum's excellent RnR photography exhibit, Who Shot Rock & Roll, the permission to proceed.

While the debauchery shown in this artifact is by now infamous, there is nothing overtly shocking about the film when viewed in today's culture of pornographic proliferation and drug use. It was more the anti-narrative aspect of Cocksucker Blues that made an impact. With no discernible beginning, middle, or end, the scenes just kept rolling, from day to night and place to place. There was a low energy feel to much of it, the monotony of the road and heroin-induced catatonia prevailed except in brief moments of explosive onstage bravado: Mick Jagger shaking glitter out of his hair singing "Brown Sugar" or Keith Richards ripping into the opening of "Midnight Rambler."

The entourage and hangers-on that made appearances were equal parts lascivious and lost, emblematic of that stereotypical post-hippie generation. The archetypal figures were impossible to miss: the mom on LSD, the awkward journalist, the sex-starved roadie. These individual portraits throughout made Cocksucker Blues more like a collage of photographs strung together than a film. Such an approach is apt, as Frank is best known as a groundbreaking figure in that field.

While it may not live up to the hype, Cocksucker Blues still retains an impressive aura of its own. It makes for a voyeuristic glimpse into a bygone era, so catch it if you can the next time they allow a showing.

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