Wednesday, May 01, 2013

A very special film...


I waited to see “Nothing Can Hurt Me” with a great deal of anticipation and excitement because this isn’t just a movie or rock documentary, it’s the story of a band I love deeply and who has influenced me immeasurably. And, it’s a movie I am extremely proud to say I contributed (along with many others) to the making of, through Kickstarter and by doing this, it led me to my pilgrimage to Memphis.  It was there I walked the ground that Big Star walked; stood in the room where they recorded those indescribable songs and had the pleasure and joy of spending time with Jody Stephens, their kind and accommodating drummer.

So this movie is something special to me.

There are no more precise words than to describe this film as simply a true labor of love.  The directors, Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori and producer Danielle McCarthy, spent a great deal of time, energy, research and care in trying to tell the story of Big Star, who for so long were both under the radar and wrapped in enigma.

Sadly, there is scant footage available of the original line-up (Chris Bell, Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens and Andy Hummel) but what was found by the filmmakers left me with chills. To see Big Star as a young, happy-looking group with an almost assured future ahead of them was a thing of beauty.  But as we all know, fate intervened cruelly and the future wasn’t assured; the band encountered one stumbling block after the other: the problem of not having their records distributed properly, their lack of playing as a live unit, no money and the intake of drugs all led to the #1 Record version of Big Star to splinter quickly.

What is remarkable, however, is the sweetness in the stories that recount those heady days of promise, as told by such luminaries as John Fry, the founder of Ardent Studios/Ardent Records, Steve Rhea, who had been in an early incarnation of the band, Jody Stephens and Andy Hummel (who would soon lose his battle with cancer in 2010) along with so many others.
Rock critics loved Big Star. The Radio City-era version (Stephens, Hummel and Chilton) played a now-legendary set at the Memphis Rock Writers’ Convention and left everyone speechless–as reported by Lenny Kaye and Jaan Uhelszki. Hearing Chris Stamey and Mitch Easter talk about their encounters with Bell and Chilton gave me an extra thrill by virtue of what influence those two gentlemen had on me—Stamey with The dB’s and Easter as a producer.  To see the way the filmmakers threaded together the characters (and believe me, the major charm of this film is that everyone interviewed is a character in the most wonderful way) while telling the band’s story, hit the mark every time.  Having just been to Memphis, I was able to immediately recognize everything and felt even more a part of the experience.

I’m not going to go on with all the nuances and details–see this movie for yourself. I’m certain that when the DVD is released, there will be much more available footage; there is so much to be said and heard about Big Star, which is their secret beauty.  Although they weren’t known until long after the fact and three of them are now gone, their story goes on forever, which makes them immortal.  And by virtue of this movie being made, high praise has to go to the three very fine people who brought Big Star’s story to an even greater audience on the visual scale.

Although I knew how the story ended, it moved me to tears.  And that says a lot.


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