Big Star specialized in heartfelt, tuneful Rock music driven by the blissful twin vocals of co-founders Chris Bell and Alex Chilton and a guitar sound heavily influenced by the band’s Southern surroundings. Yet, despite the adoration of critics and fellow musicians, the Memphis quartet never made it big during its three-album, early-’70s run. Co-directed by Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori, the documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me
investigates the band’s often tumultuous history, attempts to dissect what kept them from breaking through to a wider audience and reveals how they’ve become one of the enduring cult acts of the Rock era. The filmmakers interview many of the central figures in Big Star’s universe, including longtime drummer Jody Stephens, Ardent Studios (where the band recorded their albums) mastermind John Fry and a host of musicians and critics who shed light on what made the band so special. A wealth of vintage Big Star photos transport us into a ’70s scene that now seems as if it barely existed, yet there’s an undeniably melancholic undertone to the proceedings, largely due to the strained relationship and creative unrest of the band’s enigmatic lead duo, Bell and Chilton, and the fact that neither lived to take part in this documentary (Bell died in a 1978 car crash; Chilton died of a heart attack in 2010). A sense of loss, of what might have been, permeates this detailed, lovingly rendered tribute to a band that nevertheless continues to endure through its small but influential musical output.
Screens Sept. 13 and 14 at Kenwood Theater. (PG-13) Grade: B