'Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me': Film Review + Exclusive Clip
Chris Bell, who died at 27 in a car crash, gets his due as the creator of Big Star's sound in Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori's finely detailed documentary "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me."
The founder of the Memphis group, who brought the higher-profile Alex Chilton into the band, has gotten lost in the Big Star mythology-both in its initial run and rediscovery, where Chilton always held the role of brahman. That point is amplified through Bell's late-in-life solo singles "I Am the Cosmos" and "You and Your Sister," two songs replete with the magical ingredients of the group's revered #1 Record.
Chilton's post-Big Star career by and large mystified his former bandmates and family (Watch a Clip From the Film, Above). It's a minute point, perhaps, but "Nothing Can Hurt Me" is filled with the minutiae that explains how Bell, Chilton, Andy Hummel and Jody Stephens operated in the studio, how their label Ardent was crushed in distribution deals that went south and in turn hid them from the mass public, and revisits the three days their greatest allies of the mid-'70s-rock critics-were flown to Memphis for a convention that was pure anarchy, save for a spectacular performance from Big Star.
Drummer Stephens and late founding bassist Hummel provide most of the narrative, which focuses heavily on the band in the '70s, when it excelled at "turning pain into beauty," as one talking head puts it. Meanwhile, the voices of Chilton and Bell are taken from radio interviews and studio chatter. A reunion in the early '90s, Chilton's death and ensuing tributes at South by Southwest and in New York supply nice codas.
Made for those who hold Big Star in high regard or worship the bands Big Star inspired -- R.E.M., the Replacements, Beck, Elliott Smith, the Flaming Lips -- "Nothing Can Hurt Me" played eight film festivals this year prior to its theatrical release today in New York, July 5 in Los Angeles and July 12 in Nashville.
"Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me"
Directors: Drew DeNicola, Olivia Mori
Executive producers: John Fry, Gill Holland, David Armillei
Producer: Danielle McCarthy
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Release dates: July 3 (New York), July 5 (Los Angeles), July 12 (Nashville); available on demand and on iTunes July 3
Running time: 113 minutes