Museum of the Moving Image Spectacle is a new exhibit at The Museum of the…
- Posted on Sep 11th 2011 12:30PM by Jonathan Dekel
Kevin Mazur, WireImage
Of all the footage journalist-turned-director Cameron Crowe assembled for 'Pearl Jam Twenty' -- his retrospective documentary on the iconic Seattle band and their struggles with success -- there was one piece that stood apart from the others.
"The 'Holy Grail' was the piece of footage of Kurt Cobain and Eddie [Vedder] slow-dancing at the [1992 MTV] VMAs," Crowe told a room of reporters at a post-premiere press conference Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The incident took place under the stage as Eric Clapton was performing 'Tears in Heaven.'
"That had been talked about -- some people didn't quite remember it even happening, other people swore there was somebody there with a camera...and it's so powerful. I was watching it again tonight and it's such a human moment. It's what happens outside the glare of the spotlight."
"They were really in a blender of media explosiveness at that time and here was this moment below the stage...where Kurt and Eddie got to be alone and kind of expressed themselves as people. And the fact it was on film is amazing and so poignant."
The footage depicts the two grunge-era singers-whose groups had had a tumultuous, if respectful, relationship to both each other and fame -- embracing in a slow dance. At the end of the clip, onlookers jump and clap before Cobain tries to shush them.
"You see Kurt look over and go like this," Vedder recalled, holding a finger over his lips, "and it's not him saying, 'Don't tell anybody or keep a lid on this private moment,' it was actually because on the stage above us Eric Clapton was playing 'Tears in Heaven,' which is a pretty quiet song, and we were jumping up and down clapping."
"The first time I saw that footage it was incredibly emotional," he continued. "I think just because he's smiling and you just think, 'if he just could've pulled through.'"
More a love letter to the band and its admirers than the traditional rags-to-riches tale, 'Pearl Jam Twenty' focuses on the band's relationships with one another and struggle to understand their place in the pantheon of commercial art.
"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, but tragedy cuts it short, and aren't we sad we've lost this wonderful opportunity,'" said Crowe. "Pearl Jam is exactly the opposite, it's a tragedy that was surmounted and these guys found joy through survival. In some ways it was a hard story to tell because it's a happy ending and it's not even an ending."
Later, the director described the film a cousin to his autobiographical film, 'Almost Famous.'
"'Almost Famous' is about loving music and being a fan and I think 'Pearl Jam Twenty' is about what it's like being a fan in the band -- from their point of view looking out at all the William Millers of the world," said the former Rolling Stone writer, referencing his stand-in protagonist in the 2000 film.
"...and I played leads on both of them," exclaimed Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, inciting a hardly laugh.
At the end of the session, Vedder -- who spent the entirety of the half-hour sipping from a beer -- took exception to a reporter calling him a "reluctant rock star," giving her the middle finger.
"You've got to understand it was different then," he answered. "I don't know how people do it these days. I don't know how the young people or the people that have all the media thing and social bulls--- or whatever it is, I don't know how they deal with it. Paparazzi is something that I can't even imagine for a second. What we had at the time was too much for me, as a human. Even as a writer to not even be able to walk into a situation and observe because you're being observed."
"Twenty years later I'm not still moaning about it," he added. "It's just that you asked."