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Documentary Review – SHOT! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock

With a name like Mick Rock, you would have been more surprised if he hadn’t pursued a life of Rock N’ Roll. SHOT! Is an odyssey into the history of rock ‘n’ roll via the photographs and recounts of rock’s greatest living photographer: Mick Rock who navigates his story from the glam rock shimmer of London to the snarl of NYC punk, and deep into the new millennium. Over the years he brought us the iconic images of the likes of David Bowie, Syd Barrett, Blondie, Queen, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, revolutionizing the photography scene.

The film opens in 1996, on an operating table as we watch Mick undergoing a quadruple bypass surgery after suffering a series of heart attacks, (three in total, all that he would have before his fiftieth birthday). This is our introduction to the infamous Mick Rock whose party days have finally caught up with him (he has actually overdosed on cocaine.) and director Barnaby Clay decides to use this as a springboard, showing us Mick’s life as it flashes before his eyes. It seems all very morbid, but it’s the bitter truth of the rock n’ roll life, many young and talented people endured the same fate as Mick, but not all of them survived. This is a man who is a tough son-of-a-bitch, he isn’t going anywhere without a fight, and the film is told through his words and his art. In fact all the stock footage, photos and audio recordings in the film were sourced entirely from Mick Rock’s personal archive.

Mick Rock

And this is very much Mick’s story, told through his words only. Aside from intimate audio recordings of his private conversations with stars like David Bowie and Lou Reed (both close friends to Mick), Rock’s is the only voice we hear. There isn’t any talking head shots from his peers, or testimonies from the musicians he’s shot, they’re just not necessary here. Mick has a great voice which seems so down-to-earth and relaxed, you could listen to him all day.

He just has this natural friendly presence, and cheeky charm, this is a real life example of Michael Caine’s Alfie. Listening to his process and approach to photography is fascinating, as we hear how he thinks of himself as an assassin, lining up his targets and sniping them at their most exposed moments. Rock has a way of captured people at their most vulnerable moments, but not in a manipulative or vindictive way.

Director Barnaby Clay has directed many music videos for the likes of Gnarls Barkley, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and adopts the same approach to construct his narrative here. Clay has even stated that the theatrical style apparent in the dramatic recreations were inspired by the aesthetics of Glam Rock. The lighting looks throughout were also inspired by Mick Rock’s original photos which is the ultimate homage to the subject of his documentary. It certainly looks good, but there’s just too much material here and it often feels rushed along, to get from one event to the next (the 80s decade is almost completely glossed over), but still it’s a thrilling ride and a look into a man who lived through rock n’ roll and managed to survive. Definitely worth a watch for all those who wondered about the story behind the camera.

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