Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me is a feature-length documentary film about the dismal commercial failure, subsequent massive critical acclaim, and enduring legacy of pop music's greatest cult phenomenon, Big Star.
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BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME is a feature-length documentary about legendary Memphis band Big Star. While mainstream success eluded them, Big Star's three albums have become critically lauded touchstones of the rock music canon. A seminal band in the history of alternative music, Big Star has been cited as an influence by artists including REM, The Replacements, Belle & Sebastian, Elliott Smith and Flaming Lips, to name just a few. With never-before-seen footage and photos of the band, in-depth interviews and a rousing musical tribute by the bands they inspired, BIG STAR: NOTHING CAN HURT ME is a story of artistic and musical salvation.Written by
When listing current artists that were influenced by Big Star, Elliott Smith is seen introducing a Big Star cover song on the Jon Brion Show with the date 1996. The show was not recored until 2000. See more »
Colourful documentary about a rock band that, while critically acclaimed, seemed destined to sink without trace... and then gradually became a classic
BIG STAR: Nothing Can Hurt Me is a 2012 documentary about the eponymous 1970s pop-rock band from Memphis that saw few sales in spite of enormous critical acclaim, but went on to become a cult phenomenon and inspire some great bands in the decades that followed. The documentary was made without the participation of Big Star's surly frontman Alex Chilton (and it was completed following Chilton's untimely death), but it does feature interviews with bassist Andy Hummel, drummer Jody Stephens, and the musicians brought on when Chilton announced a new Big Star in the 1990s. Furthermore, producer John Fry appears throughout the documentary and appears to have had a bigger role in the Big Star story than many listeners might have imagined.
The film begins with the Memphis context of the late 1960s/early 1970s. Chilton, who had already had a chart hit with the band The Box Top and toured the country, comes home and starts a new band with Chris Bell. The process of recording Big Star's first album "#1 Record" is explained in some depth, from how the band used the available studio resources to where the iconic cover art came from.
We learn how Bell splits after the first album, has a nervous breakdown and flirts with evangelical Christianity, tries to make it as a musician in England and cuts the legendary single "You and Your Sister/I am the Cosmos", and finally dies in 1978 of a car crash at only 27 years old. There are poignant interviews with Bell's older brother and sister-in-law, but part of Bell's angst was his homosexuality, and everyone is uncomfortable even approaching this subject.
The documentary continues through the recording of Big Star's second ("Radio City") and third ("Third/Sister Lovers") records, followed by the ultimate breakdown of relations between Jody Stephens and Alex Chilton and the end of Big Star. There's some brief coverage of Chilton's solo career through the 1980s and the reformed Big Star in the 1990s and early millennium. There are some brief comments from later, perhaps more famous musicians that express an eternal debt to Big Star, like Teenage Fanclub and Mike Mills of R.E.M.
This is one of those documentaries that, to a degree, expects viewers to already know quite a bit about the band in question, making it somewhat frustrating for those who know Big Star's name and legacy but not so much the band's career and arc. It is mentioned that #1 Record sold poorly through label problems, but it's as if the viewer is already supposed to know that it was poorly distributed. It is mentioned briefly that Chris Bell died in a car crash, but with little detail. And there are some aspects of the production that seem mystery. For example, why does Jody Stephens have such a bad attitude throughout his interviews? Still, I enjoyed BIG STAR: Nothing Can Hurt Me overall. So many rock documentaries interview people who exploded into stardom, moved to la-la-land like California and seem to live on another planet compared to non-celebrities. Here, on the other hand, it's amazing just what ordinary southern Americans these people are, who clearly have some good memories of their youth but never really went for celebrity culture. They could be one's neighbours or the people you pass in the supermarket. That's not to say that they aren't interesting, as they include some quirky characters like the affably campy John King and producer Jim Dickinson's elderly but eternally young widow.
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