Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me

Rock doc is a boon to members of the Big Star cult.

July 2, 2013

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1380528-Big_Star_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

One of the greatest power-pop bands ever was never pop: Big Star, the beautiful-but-doomed Memphis quartet whose melodic songs distilled teenager-dom to its blissful, bittersweet essence, was all but unknown until years after they broke up. Now, two decades or so after their rediscovery, Drew DeNicola tells their story with loving care in a doc that will be embraced by generations of music nerds who can't imagine a world without them.

As satisfying as a rock doc can be without offering much in the way of in-their-prime live film, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me focuses exclusively on those who participated, somehow, in the band's story—from art directors and promo reps for their 1972 debut LP to the musical descendants (notably R.E.M. producer Mitch Easter and Chris Stamey of the dB's) who hunted members down after they disbanded and helped keep the flame alive. Notably absent is The Replacements' Paul Westerberg, whose song "Alex Chilton" introduced the “120 Minutes” generation to the band.

Chilton, for those who don't know, was just one-half of a Lennon/McCartney team in the band. Partner Chris Bell, who left after the group's first album, gets as much attention as anyone here: Though the doc ignores stories about fighting among bandmates, it offers a detailed and poignant account of Bell's emotional troubles and his attempts to launch a solo career. (Bell is part of a tragic pantheon, stretching from Robert Johnson to Amy Winehouse, of musicians who died at 27.)

Chilton and Bell's colleagues Andy Hummell and Jody Stephens are interviewed here (Chilton died in 2010, apparently without sitting for DeNicola), but just as evocative are Q&As with people like John Fry, who founded Big Star's record label, Ardent. Though their debut earned rave reviews in major publications, Ardent's distribution problems made it difficult to find in stores; their second album, thanks to more record-company woes, was similarly elusive.

One record-label effort bore fruit, though: A long chunk of the film is devoted to rock critics who, in 1973, were flown to Memphis for a quasi-conference that culminated in a Big Star show. The band's music may have been, as songwriter Robyn Hitchcock says, "a letter that got lost in the mail." But on that night, if no other, they got to connect with exactly the right audience.
-The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me

Rock doc is a boon to members of the Big Star cult.

July 2, 2013

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1380528-Big_Star_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

One of the greatest power-pop bands ever was never pop: Big Star, the beautiful-but-doomed Memphis quartet whose melodic songs distilled teenager-dom to its blissful, bittersweet essence, was all but unknown until years after they broke up. Now, two decades or so after their rediscovery, Drew DeNicola tells their story with loving care in a doc that will be embraced by generations of music nerds who can't imagine a world without them.

As satisfying as a rock doc can be without offering much in the way of in-their-prime live film, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me focuses exclusively on those who participated, somehow, in the band's story—from art directors and promo reps for their 1972 debut LP to the musical descendants (notably R.E.M. producer Mitch Easter and Chris Stamey of the dB's) who hunted members down after they disbanded and helped keep the flame alive. Notably absent is The Replacements' Paul Westerberg, whose song "Alex Chilton" introduced the “120 Minutes” generation to the band.

Chilton, for those who don't know, was just one-half of a Lennon/McCartney team in the band. Partner Chris Bell, who left after the group's first album, gets as much attention as anyone here: Though the doc ignores stories about fighting among bandmates, it offers a detailed and poignant account of Bell's emotional troubles and his attempts to launch a solo career. (Bell is part of a tragic pantheon, stretching from Robert Johnson to Amy Winehouse, of musicians who died at 27.)

Chilton and Bell's colleagues Andy Hummell and Jody Stephens are interviewed here (Chilton died in 2010, apparently without sitting for DeNicola), but just as evocative are Q&As with people like John Fry, who founded Big Star's record label, Ardent. Though their debut earned rave reviews in major publications, Ardent's distribution problems made it difficult to find in stores; their second album, thanks to more record-company woes, was similarly elusive.

One record-label effort bore fruit, though: A long chunk of the film is devoted to rock critics who, in 1973, were flown to Memphis for a quasi-conference that culminated in a Big Star show. The band's music may have been, as songwriter Robyn Hitchcock says, "a letter that got lost in the mail." But on that night, if no other, they got to connect with exactly the right audience.
-The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Kingdom of Dreams and Madness
Film Review: The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

Venture inside the hallowed hallways of Japan's most prestigious animation studio in this insightful documentary. More »

Antarctica: A  Year On Ice
Film Review: Antarctica: A Year on Ice

Thrilling, award-winning New Zealand doc about the mysterious and forbidding continent at the bottom of the world is not your usual travelogue, but a surprising exploration of the human soul and human needs. Happily, adorable penguins and stunning visuals also get screen time. More »

Remote Area Medical
Film Review: Remote Area Medical

Doc offers in-the-trenches evidence of dire need in the U.S. health-care system. More »

Immortalists
Film Review: The Immortalists

Attention-grabbing subject meets colorful characters in this science doc. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Penguins of Madagascar
Film Review: Penguins of Madagascar

Frenetic vehicle for supporting players from the Madagascar films will entertain kids but prove a little wearying for their parents. More »

imitation game
Film Review: The Imitation Game

Terrific biopic about world-class mathematician and social misfit Alan Turing, who, in spite of a painful struggle with his homosexuality, helped the Allies break the code of the Nazis' Enigma machine. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here