|Index||4 reviews in total|
This is an excellent documentary detailing the genesis and ill-rewarded
career of Jad and David Fair, and their pursuit of becoming the best rock
and roll band ever.
Half Jap fans will love the behind the scenes stories of how the band came to be, including an amazing vignette about how they signed their first record contract.
But the viewer totally unaware of Half Japanese and the strange influence they've had on American underground culture will also appreciate this film for the story of two goofy, naiive kids who decided they could make music, regardless of everything but intent.
There are some nice appearances by Velvet Underground founder Mo Tucker, Penn Jillette, and the guitar superhero Don Fleming. Sorely missed, however, are comments from jazz sax vanguard (and frequent Half Japanese contributor) John Zorn and Half Japanese's finest producer, Kramer.
The only weak spot in the whole film is the slightly tedious yammerings about poisonous major record labels by kooky music savants Gerard Cosloy and Byron Coley (Coley, who seems to imply that the major labels had somehow gotten their compeuppance in the post-Dokken junkyard of the early 90's.) Clearly Half Japanese is superior to the mind-numbing crap spewed onto the airwaves, but turning Jad into the poster child for independent label struggles is probably not a good fit. Jad himself has his eyes set on writing the most popular rock song ever, which would be hard to do in a 3 person mail room at some indie label hangout.
Indeed Jad and company deserve far more recognition than they ever have gotten in this country. It's sad that we need an excellent film like this to certify Half Japanese culturally, as if without it Half Jap would fade away into oblivion.
I missed this film when it played the Toronto International Film Festival
and had found it extremely difficult to locate on video. I recently tracked
down a copy on DVD and was floored by the content.
The film is sincere, informed, and very well put together all around. Filled with anecdotes and facts from HJ's history, featuring interviews with Jad and David, Don Fleming, G. Cosley, Maureen Tucker, J & D's Parents, and others.
If you like independent music--or aren't familiar with the genre outside of having heard it exists--check out this film. It will be well worth your time. The DVD also contains their "Live In Hell" video, which is a lot of fun.
I had heard of the band Half Japanese before seeing this film in the out-of-print Spin Alternative Record Guide, but nothing written about them could prepare me for this amazing documentary. Picture this: two brothers from Ohio get the bug to start a band. Neither Jad or David Fair has any clue as to how to play their instruments, but in 1980, they ink a deal to release a three-LP debut box set from an English label. Over the next ten years, Half Japanese earns enormous accolades, especially among other musicians, ironically. I can't think of how anybody could possibly watch this film all the way through and not come to endear Jad Fair. The best scenes are the interviews with Jad and David's parents ("Our house is the birthplace of punk rock") and a staged interlude where the two brothers explain where why they started writing songs about ghosts and dead pirates. You owe it to yourself to see this movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Truth is stranger than fiction, but fiction pretending to be truth can
be funnier. Or at least, that's the earnest hope for this
dry-as-melba-toast mockumentary. Taking on the highly ironic tones of
the independent hipster scene, the movie purports to tell the story of
Jed and David Fair as the band Half-Japanse, from parents-bedroom
recorded music tapes to their first contract, with a British label for
a 3 box EP. Their lack of musical ability is no obstacle to worldwide
underground fame. The movie is so earnest, and so without laughs beyond
an in-the-know smirk, that you may not even clue in that this is a
mockumentary, although about an actual band.
The movie is one of those hipster-insider jokes, by which they congratulate themselves on being in the know and secretly smirking in superiority at anyone who doesn't get the joke. And the joke, dear viewer, is on you.
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