A group of Baker fans, ranging from ex-associates to ex-wives and children, talk about the man. Weber’s film traces the man’s career from the 1950s, playing with jazz greats like Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan, and Russ Freeman, to the 1980s, when his heroin addiction and domestic indifference kept him in Europe. By juxtaposing these two decades, Weber presents a sharp contrast between the younger, handsome Baker — the statuesque idol who resembled a mix of James Dean and Jack Kerouac — to what he became, “a seamy looking drugstore cowboy-cum-derelict”, as J. Hoberman put it in his Village Voice review.
Let’s Get Lost begins near the end of Baker’s life, on the beaches of Santa Monica, and ends at the Cannes Film Festival. Weber uses these moments in the present as bookends to the historic footage contained in the bulk of the film. The documentation ranges from vintage photographs by William Claxton in 1953 to appearances on The Steve Allen Show and kitschy, low budget Italian films Baker did for quick money.
Bruce Weber first became interested in Chet Baker when he spotted a photograph of the musician in a Pittsburgh record store on the cover of the 1955 vinyl LP Chet Baker Sings and Plays when he was 16 years old; the film's title comes from a song from the album.
Weber first met Baker in the winter of 1986 at a club in New York City and convinced him to do a photo shoot and what was originally only going to be a three-minute film. Weber had wanted to make a short film from an Oscar Levant song called "Blame It on My Youth". They had such a good time together that Baker started opening up to Weber. Afterwards, Weber convinced Baker to make a longer film and the musician agreed. Filming began in January 1987. Interviewing Baker was a challenge as Weber remembers, "Sometimes we'd have to stop for some reason or another and then, because Chet was a junkie and couldn't do things twice, we'd have to start all over again. But we grew to really like him".
"You'd decide that, when Chet finally gets up, you'll grab him and talk to him about the early days", Weber expanded to Time Out. "But then Chet gets here, and he's had a fight with his girlfriend, and he wants to record a song… So what happens is that your world becomes like a jazz suite. You have to go along with him".
In May 1987, when Weber's documentary Broken Noses premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, he brought Baker along to shoot footage for Let's Get Lost. Weber spent a million dollars of his own money on the documentary and filmed it when he had the time and the money, describing it as "a very ad hoc film".
Let's Get Lost had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The documentary was well received by critics and currently has a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Entertainment Weekly gave the film an "A-" rating and said that Weber "created just about the only documentary that works like a novel, inviting you to read between the lines of Baker's personality until you touch the secret sadness at the heart of his beauty". In her review for the Los Angeles Times, Carina Chocano wrote, "If there's a driving force to Weber's film, it seems to be delving into the nature and purpose of star quality and personal magnetism, which Baker had in droves but which didn't save him". In his review for The Washington Post, Hal Hinson wrote that what Weber "provides us is rapturous, deeply involving, and more than a little puzzling". Terrence Rafferty, in his review for The New York Times, wrote, "The enduring fascination of Let’s Get Lost, the reason it remains powerful even now, when every value it represents is gone, is that it’s among the few movies that deal with the mysterious, complicated emotional transactions involved in the creation of pop culture — and with the ambiguous process by which performers generate desire".
A newly restored print was screened at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.
Let's Get Lost was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1988.
The film score features performances by Baker from the 1950's and 1960's along with newly recorded performances from 1987 and the soundtrack album was released on the RCA Novus label (full title Chet Baker Sings and Plays from the Film "Let's Get Lost") in 1989.
Lindsay Planer of AllMusic states, "Even though time and substances have given Baker the visage of a man twice his age, those inimitable pipes and velvet tone have worn surprisingly well. The track list is quite literally replete with something old, new, borrowed, and blue ... Ironically, the title song "Let's Get Lost" isn't on this album. While the tune was in the documentary, it is the familiar 1956 version. This leads to one of the primary criticisms that can be leveled at this collection -- it would have been well served by a supplementary volume of vintage Baker featured in the movie, although presumably licensing prohibited such".
Chet Baker - trumpet, vocals
Frank Strazzeri, piano
John Leftwich - bass
Ralph Penland - drums (tracks 1-5)
Nicola Stilo - guitar (track 12)
- "Moon & Sand" (Alec Wilder, Morty Palitz, William Engvick) - 5:30
- "Imagination" (Jimmy Van Heusen, Johnny Burke) - 4:52
- "You're My Thrill" (Jay Gorney, Sidney Clare) - 4:59
- "For Heaven's Sake" (Sherman Edwards, Elise Bretton, Donald Meyer) - 4:51 Additional track on CD release
- "Every Time We Say Goodbye" (Cole Porter) - 4:48
- "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You" (Victor Young, Bing Crosby, Ned Washington) - 5:03 Additional track on CD release
- "Day Dream" (Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington, John La Touche) - 5:00
- "Zingaro" (Antônio Carlos Jobim) - 7:33
- "Blame It on My Youth" (Oscar Levant , Edward Heyman) - 6:18
- "My One and Only Love" (Guy Wood, Robert Mellin) - 5:30
- "Everything Happens to Me" (Tom Adair, Matt Dennis) - 5:19 Additional track on CD release
- "Almost Blue" (Elvis Costello) - 3:13
Let's Get Lost was released on VHS and Laserdisc in Japan by Nippon Columbia on November 21, 1993.
Let's Get Lost was originally going to be released on DVD in 2007 along with an expanded version of the film's soundtrack. According to Weber, the DVD was to be released in December 2007 but failed to do so. The DVD was released in the United Kingdom on July 28, 2008. The DVD was finally released in the United States by Docurama on December 3, 2013. A Blu-ray edition was released in Italy for Region B.
It is also available for streaming and downloading.