Beefeater In-Edit 2013, Chapter I
Before June 1st of 2011, Big Star was a band always pending to discover because R.E.M., my heroes, were always praising them. But on that date two years ago, the Big Star's Third tribute concert at Primavera Sound 2012 in Barcelona was an unforgettable moment for me, simply being one of the most touching music experiences of my life. Truth be told, the main reason I went to the show was Mike Mills' playing among the guest starts, but the night was so memorable I still got goosebumps when I remember. Since then I've been trying to get into Big Star's music, so no question I was eager to watch this documentary.
Having said that, I don't consider myself a fan yet, and that might explain why, although "Nothing Can Hurt Me" is a highly recommendable rockumentary, I would say it's only a must for hardcore fans. There's an undeniable feeling you are in front of a very peculiar group and a unique story... but not exactly thanks to the film achievements. Allow me to explain.
The film is a caring chronicle of the Memphis' group ill-fated path and its recurrent struggle with success or popularity in the early 70s. Big Star's tale is the epitome of the cult band: loved by critics and fellow musicians, but remaining out of focus from popularity. Sure, it makes no sense, Ardent and Stax Records are sure to blame... but it's not surprising or extremely meaningful. The band's bad luck with his three records, distribution issues and lack of air playing is not that interesting for the occasional listener or the non-fan.
Being honest, I don't how co-directors Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori could have solved the obvious obstacles they faced doing this film. The factor of the "absence" of the two band leaders on the film is crucial. There's no Chris Bell and no Alex Chilton on camera. All their story, within the band, after the first left, and finally after the combo disbanded in 1974 is reconstructed. The band's tragedy, crystallised on its two key members, can only be recreated by the filmmakers. Add another issue, which is, of course, the fact there's almost no footage of the band performing live. That makes the movie absolutely dependable on cool but a bit tiring visual compositions and a vast amount of opinions from the many people interviewed, harming the overall rhythm of a considerably lengthy film (close to two hours).
Not to criticise the opinions and remarks of the people interacting on the film. On the contrary, that's what makes "Nothing Can Hurt Me" worth watching, and at times, unforgettable. They are the best example of how deeply the songs of Big Star have touched many hearts and souls, in a way that to me (I've seen a lot of documentaries) is hard to compare. As the film develops you'll see an spectacular constellation of musicians, critics and industry-related folks showing a genuine love, even devotion (Mitch Easter, for example) for the cursed band. Some will get close to tears, impossible to hide how affected they still are by the tunes. Others are just striking for the viewer (family, close friends) with lone surviving band member Jody Stephens topping my "personal list". So human and compelling. That's why Big Star is a mythical band. Heartfelt rockumentary, despite the shortcomings. It couldn't be any other way with Big Star.