Monday, July 22, 2013

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me

I caught the area premiere of the Big Star film "Nothing Can Hurt Me" last night at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge.

Im probably not alone here, but a big reason I'm drawn to documentaries about artists or athletes or other figures who "might have been" are the tales of adversity. Big Star's story, particularly that of the band's founder but lesser-known star Chris Bell, is no exception. 

I'm a huge fan of Bell, and ever since my pal Lee highly recommended I check out I Am the Cosmos, I've felt I could say with certainty it's better than anything Alex Chilton ever did post-Big Star. 

I don't say this because I feel you have to support one co-leader over the other. In fact, as the film touched on, Chilton's support is a big reason the "I Am the Cosmos" single was released in the first place (with the album of the same name coming out 13 years after Bell's death). Chilton also adds beautiful backing vocals to "You and Your Sister" in what has to be considered the final collaboration between two unsung musical geniuses. 

Regardless, and although the Chilton-led band released two great albums following Bell's departure, it's safe to say Big Star wouldn't have been Big Star without Chris Bell. 

So, like I said, it's the stories of adversity, particularly those that tug on my heart strings that reel me in when I take in such a documentary. One such moment from this thoroughly fascinating and highly enjoyable film really stands out to me. 

Bell's brother and sister sit on the couch of their family home as Bell's sister Sara struggles to put her feelings about her brother's career and life into words for the interviewer. She definitely has regrets, and hesitates as she seems to let the word resentment slip out of her mouth. David, her older brother, takes the pressure off by calmly interjecting, "You'd rather have him instead of having the music out there."

It's impossible to take issue with such an assessment coming from a loved one. Personally, I suppose I wish Bell and his family could have had the best of both worlds.

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