Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall

 

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A biopic that explains why Jim Marshall's work needs to be remembered.

 
Show Me the Picture

  

Jim Marshall, who lived from 1936 to 2010, may not have been born in San Francisco but he spent most of his life there becoming a photographer of note. Some of his pictures reflected social issues but, first and foremost, he dealt in portraits, and especially portraits of rock stars. Indeed, it was in the 1960s and 1970s that he was at the height of his fame and the real achievement of this documentary by Alfred George Bailey is that it enables us to see these pictures on the big screen. Those keen on pop music of that era may be familiar with his work, but for others he is likely to be a forgotten man. That makes this film all the more important because the quality of his portraits is exceptional. His ability to take informal and insightful pictures of musicians and others undoubtedly earns him the right to be remembered as a true artist and this film is testimony to that.

 

The film enables us to assess his work for ourselves, but it is also a standard biopic tracing Marshall's life. Looked at from that angle, it is interesting but certainly less successful. Marshall, the son of immigrants, saw himself as something of an outsider and listening to those interviewed here - friends of note such as Michael Douglas, many musicians and by no means least Amelia Davis who was close to him in his later years and became the executrix of his estate - one learns how Marshall despite inspiring friendships was possessed of a dark side. He is described as not being a man you would want to cross and his personal history was marked by a cocaine habit so serious that it derailed his career for years. If that aspect is not so surprising given the popularity of cocaine among many of the rock artists with whom he partied, what is far more disturbing is his love of guns which led not only to him using them to threaten people but to actually firing them (he would spend some time in jail).

 

The film is disadvantaged by the fact that what made Marshall such a two-sided figure is far from being clear. There is no cleaning up of the facts here yet the man himself remains something of an enigma. Consequently, although much of the film presents his life in chronological order (some sequences, however, do jump around in time and thus interrupt the flow), by the close Marshall remains too elusive for the viewer to feel able to relate to him. But the pictures he took are another matter: be it the rock stars such as Hendrix, Cash, Dylan and Joplin or jazz greats like Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane or Miles Davis, his are the images of them that burn into the memory, proof if it still be needed that photography is indeed an art form.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Amelia Davis, Michael Douglas, Galadrielle Allman, Adam Block, Peter Frampton, Eileen Hirst, Jon Savage, Anton Corbijn, Ken Valente, Michael Zagaris, Michelle Margetts, Nion McEvoy, Graham Nash.

 

Dir Alfred George Bailey, Pro Tatiana Kennedy, Ph Alfred George Bailey, Mark Molesworth, Andie Walla, Adam Biskupski and Randal Love, Ed Adam Biskupski, Music Ian Arber.

 

Sampsonic MediaBailey Kennedy ProductionsKennedy Mellor-Modern Films.
92 mins. UK/Cyprus/USA. 2019. Rel: 31 January 2020. Cert. 15.