Film Review: Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock

An intimate portrait of photographer Mick Rock and the iconic images that helped define rock music in the ’70s.
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There’s a good chance you’ve never heard the name “Mick Rock,” or if you have, you may not know exactly what he contributed to his namesake music genre. Then again, if you’re a fan of any music from the ’70s, you’re very likely to have seen Mick (born Michael David) Rock’s photographic images on dozens of album covers.

Directed by British filmmaker Barnaby Clay and filmed mostly in stark black-and-white, Shot! is 90 minutes of Rock regaling his life story through pictures and anecdotes, beginning at the University of Cambridge where early experiments with LSD “opened his third eye.” Rock soon stumbled into a career as a photographer by literally being at the right place at the right time with his camera. 

After taking pictures of Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett used for the cover of his solo album, Rock became David Bowie’s personal photographer during his Ziggy Stardust phase, which helped make him one of the most in-demand photographers as he created iconic album cover images for Iggy Pop’s Stooges and Lou Reed. 

Rock thrived in the burgeoning British glam-rock scene, where music and fashion merged into one, taking pictures of Freddie Mercury and Queen that produced the iconic cover of “Queen II,” inspired by a picture of Marlene Dietrich. 

As hinted by the title, Rock guides us on this spiritual journey through his career, hovering over a light table filled with negatives of his work and sharing stories about his most iconic photos and the sessions that produced them. Fortunately for Clay’s film, Rock loves to talk as he digs through his archives to show rare live photos of Roxy Music, Genesis, and even promotional stills for The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Rock’s camera readily transitioned from the glam-rock scene and artists who loved posing in makeup to the griminess of punk, taking early pictures of the Sex Pistols, Ramones and Blondie, cementing his status as “The Man Who Shot the Seventies.”

“I’m not after your soul, I’m after your fuckin’ aura,” Rock states when asked about what having a photographer’s eye entails. Later in the film, we’re taken through a typical photo session, watching how Rock uses meditation and mantras to get himself into the right frame of mind.

Being around so many rock stars famous for drug use, Rock indulged in a similar level of rock ’n’ roll excess. He’s slightly more reticent to talk about the lowest point in his life when that drug lifestyle began to hurt his career and nearly killed him. Rock suffered a number of serious drug-related medical incidents before getting a quadruple bypass that saved his life. This near-death experience hovers over the entire film with a stark recreation of the night when Rock came the closest to dying due to his unhealthy choices

Probably the most amazing revelation Shot! offers is allowing us to hear some of Rock’s personal recordings talking candidly with Bowie and Reed during the ’70s. These alone are worth the price of admission and give this film far more weight than merely being a journey down memory lane.

With so many great stories about Rock’s rock-legend friends, Shot! makes a terrific companion piece to last year’s Danny Says, about Ramones manager Danny Fields. Rock’s images are accompanied by a few classic tracks from those he photographed, but are also enhanced by a haunting and hypnotic score by Steven Drozd.

Like having a personal tour guide through an exhibition of Rock’s classic images, Shot! is an absolutely essential doc for anyone interested in the amazing era of rock music produced during the 1970s.

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