It’s hard to know for sure, but would I think that any serious music fan who doesn’t know the band Big Star prior to seeing the exemplary new rock doc Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me will be blown away. Not only does Drew DeNicola‘s film dramatically recount the cultural forces and strong personalities that helped to create the music of this hugely influential Memphis-based band from the early 1970s, but it’s stacked minute-to-minute with so many terrific and timeless songs that the impact can be pretty overwhelming.
After a successful festival tour, VOD success, and a limited theatrical run, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me is now out on Blu-ray. Having seen the movie three times now, I can safely say that it packs an emotional punch as well. Artists often times pour their hearts and souls into their art to a sometimes dangerous degree and that’s what happened with Big Star. So much time was spent on the songwriting and recordings that when the band’s albums failed on a commercial level, it had tough repercussions across the board.
As with any rock documentary, the release of a Blu-ray is exciting for the deleted scenes and extra bonus material. Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me doesn’t disappoint here either. We’re lucky that producer John Fry and the people at Ardent Studios were so generous in giving the band and their friends ample time to experiment in the studio. The ironically #1 Record is often cited as one of the best recorded rock albums period, so the 15-minute extra feature Big Star in the Studio with Fry and engineer Adam Hill listening back to the original tapes and offering anecdotes is particularly great.
The other two notable extras are two sequences approximately 20 minutes each that feature more individual details about Big Star band leaders Chris Bell and Alex Chilton. These are fully produced and edited pieces that were probably cut from the movie purely to reduce its running time. They both provide just a little more detail and round out the personal journeys of each of these incredibly talented songwriters. Also included are three short deleted scenes that revolve around Big Star’s limited touring experience. All in all, the Blu-ray (which sounds and looks incredible of course) includes just over an hour of extra material that is put together with the same care as the film.
Brand new today on DVD is a British documentary that at times has the feel of a rollicking genre move, thanks to some flashy editing, stylized animation, and its subject matter. The animation, it turns out, was wholly necessary because the interview subjects being animated are two actual members of a gang of international jewel thieves (with actors re-dubbing their voices) called The Pink Panthers and this was the way director Havana Marking came up with to keep them anonymous.
The film starts off with a rush of energy. Surveillance video of their blink-and-you-missed-it heists is shown, you meet the insiders, and the authorities who have been chasing the Panthers for years are introduced. It then takes a welcome turn into more ambiguous territory. This well-organized organization isn’t actually a small group of Balkan criminals, but part of a much larger global ring — and they want to be considered some sort of modern-day Robin Hoods, bringing back money to the embattled and economically depressed former Yugoslav territories.
Whether this wealth is actually being distributed anywhere worthwhile or not (there’s no evidence that it is), one thing is clear: In their heists (which continue to this day), The Pink Panthers have become incredibly brazen. The movie provides context and possible sociological motivation for their actions, but (also because of its limited access to the gang itself) lacks any real detail about the fencing operation. The pacing is frustrating as well, with some interviews and set pieces being extended past their expiration date, so to speak. Uneven? Yes, but still fascinating. Maybe Danny Boyle can make a something a little more coherent when he takes a stab at The Pink Panthers’ story.
The DVD contains an interview with Marking, additional robbery footage, animated storyboards and a featurette about the animation, a Dubai police film, an an “exclusive” phone call from a reputed Pink Panther.