Music has always played a major part in director Cameron Crowe’s films, with 2000’s Almost Famous being perhaps the most music-centric.
So it was only a matter of time before he threw himself completely into a rock and roll documentary like he’s done with Pearl Jam Twenty, about the iconic Seattle band.
“Almost Famous was about loving music and being a fan, and Pearl Jam Twenty is about loving music and being a band,” Crowe explains.
The film premieres tonight in cities around the world as a one-night cinematic event before starting week-long runs in select cities Friday and heading to DVD October 25.
Accompanying the film is a comprehensive book by Jonathan Cohen with Mark Wilkerson and a two-disc soundtrack of live recordings and bootlegs hand-selected by Crowe.
Crowe, a longtime friend of the band, admits a lot of inspiration for the project came from Martin Scorsese’s 2005 Bob Dylan documentary, No Direction Home, which also eschewed a traditional theatrical run.
“I felt so satisfied and inspired by that movie that I wanted to listen to more Bob Dylan,” Crowe says.
“It felt like a Bob Dylan experience, and I thought that if we can make a movie the way a Pearl Jam record makes you feel, then we’re in good shape.”
The director, who managed to squeeze all the band members into his Seattle-set romantic comedy Singles back in 1992, insists this isn’t your standard Behind the Music fare.
“I’ve always felt that the story of Pearl Jam is a great story,” Crowe says.
“It’s beyond just a rock story. In fact, it takes the usual rock story and turns it on its head.
“The usual rock story is incredible promise — brilliance, maybe. Tragedy cuts it short. And aren’t we sad that we’ve lost this wonderful opportunity.
“Pearl Jam is exactly the opposite. It’s a tragedy that was surmounted. And these guys found joy through survival, and studying what happened with rock before with some of their heroes.”
For the band, while the amount of focus and introspection might be uncomfortable at first, they’re more than happy with the finished product.
“Maybe it’s good that this movie kind of happened now. We’ve been in grateful mode and appreciation mode of each other for, I think, for quite some time,” says lead singer Eddie Vedder.
“It’s a galvanizing kind of moment to look at each other. It doesn’t happen that often. You look at all the crowd reaction, or the family that is the people that come to see the shows,” Vedder says.
“It’s just music. It’s just guitars and drums and bass. To have it turn into this other thing is kind of a monument.
“I don’t mean to self-aggrandize, but it’s really something to see it and witness it, and, in this case, be reminded of it and have it right there in front of us so that we can appreciate it even more.
“And know that we have a really strong base to, like, cover the next 20.”
- Pearl Jam Twenty screens tonight at select theatres across Canada.
- Visit filmswelike.com for locations and times.