The Rolling Stones: Cocksucker Blues
- 1h 33min
Follow the Rolling Stones on their 1972 North American Tour and their first return to the States since the tragedy at Altamont.Follow the Rolling Stones on their 1972 North American Tour and their first return to the States since the tragedy at Altamont.Follow the Rolling Stones on their 1972 North American Tour and their first return to the States since the tragedy at Altamont.
But the meat of this film is in the off-the-cuff, life-on-the-road footage, shot in a beautiful, grainy black and white. Other important filmmakers worked with the Stones before and after (J-L Godard on "One Plus One," Hal Ashby on the regrettable "Let's Spend the Night Together"), but this is the great one because it does the opposite of glamorizing the band -- it reveals the quotidian nature of their antics on the road. Lots of outrageous things happen: roadies shoot up, Keith Richards throws a TV set out the window and displays himself in various states of extreme intoxication and/or nodding off, groupies are abused on the tour bus, etc.
But Frank reveals it all in his unique deadpan style, letting you see the band members as individuals carrying on an everyday existence rather than as celebrities. In his camera, the excess is all of a piece with the mundane details: Jagger sitting on his hotel bed ordering a bowl of fruit, a conversationless walk along a road, etc.
Frank doesn't deglamorize his subject, either -- despite the squalor of some of what he shows us, he isn't out to debunk the Stones and their hangers-on, but to reveal them to us as part of everyday life and the spectacle they put on as a workaday component of the larger spectacle society feeds to the masses as entertainment. The effect is a little like the messier backstage scenes of such films as von Sternberg's "The Blue Angel," Bergman's "Sawdust and Tinsel," or Fellini's "Variety Lights," where the everyday routine that goes on behind the making of an illusion seems somehow harder and crueller than it would in any other setting. But it's life, as Robert Frank observes it in our airbrushed, late-capitalist world.
The wonderful last shot, as Jagger throws his arm into the air amidst an explosion of lights and camera flashes, ends it with a flourish, but by now we've seen the mess behind the flash. This film grows you up.
Officially, "CB" was the film of the Stones' 1972 US tour, but for murky reasons (one hears it was the shooting-up sequences that did it) the band barred its release and only allows it to be shown occasionally. In its place, the relatively uninspired "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones!" was released. Too bad -- catch "CB" if you can, or seek out one of the many bootleg videotapes circulating, although the color repro on the latter can sometimes be lousy.
- Jan 28, 2000