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The rock ‘n’ roll excesses of the ’60s and ’70s are etched into legend. We’re now living through a moment when it seems as if we might one day, you know, be pulling Led Zeppelin tracks from streaming sites because of the scandalous nature of the group’s offstage bacchanals. Yet I somehow doubt it. The burst of wild-dog incandescence that defined the original rock-idol era now looms larger than life; that’s true even more as time goes by. And Jim Marshall, the virtuoso photographer who, as much as any rock shutterbug, was in the ecstatic thick of it all, is one of the reasons why.
“Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall” is, before anything else, a celebration of Marshall’s indelible images of the rock gods and goddesses who changed the world. (If you think the over-the-edge mystique that era created the soundtrack for has faded, then you haven’t visited a college campus in the last 30 years.) The experience the film offers isn’t all that different, really, from going to a classic rock photography boutique, gawking at the images of a time that looks more delirious with each passing year.
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Yet “Show Me the Picture” is also a cautionary documentary about where all that excess can lead. Marshall, who died in 2010, was a one-man embodiment of the selfish, destructive, set-a-limit-and-I’ll-trash-it pathologies of the era. It’s certainly a good thing that the film’s director, Alfred George Bailey, includes both sides — the glory and the madness. Yet “Show Me the Picture” is more successful as a rock nostalgia trip than it is as a portrait of the portrait maker.
Marshall, who spent most of his life in San Francisco, was as raw and verité an artist as Robert Frank or Larry Clark, but...
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