Jandek on Corwood (2003) Poster

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Great job, guys
snowboarderbo2 July 2005
I first discovered Jandek last fall. I stumbled across something on a website that led me to something else that led me to something else... and eventually I tripped over Jandek.

His story intrigued me enough to find some of his music, which intrigued me even more. Like so many others I couldn't stop thinking "who IS this guy and what the hell is he all about?" The enigma factor definitely puts a different type of spin on his music, and after listening to quite a bit of it, I decided I was a fan.

Here's why: Jandek's music is not all bad, some of it is quite good, and there are occasional random moments of transcendence that are SO good, it's worth putting up with everything else. It's a lot like life.

And that's the heart of it, right there. Jandek's music is almost unbelievably expressive. Because of a distinct lack of context, tho, it's not always clear what he is expressing or why. This allows each listener to make very personal, unique interpretations and thus the music becomes memorable.

This film's success lies in the filmmakers understanding their subject matter and having the good sense to explore this nuance not just about the music, but about the man who makes it.

Through interviews with aficionados, popular music scholars and a small number of people who have actually spoken with Jandek, this film tells us what is known about him and what is thought about him. Eventually we get a clear picture of what Jandek has done, and we form a hazy picture of who Jandek might be. I thought it was great that they made no attempt to get Jandek on camera. It showed a lot of respect for the subject, over and above respect for the subject matter.

There is also a ton of Jandek's music in the film and in the bonus material on the DVD. The DVD packaging is very stylish. The special features material offers an unexpurgated, uncut version of 1 of Jandek's 2 interviews (with John Trubee, no less).

I highly recommend this film.

To Chad Friedrichs & Paul Fehler: great job, guys.
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newagephilosopher26 August 2005
By now the myth that is Jandek could devour an entire metropolis a la the Blob. Every stone that's been turned has provided little insight into who truly lurks behind the pseudonym. Although those in my shoes would have you believe that Jandek is the master of keeping to himself, that's far from the truth. He's plastered his face over dozens of albums covers, and he's made Corwood Industries- the company that has single-handedly birthed Jandek albums to the world through sleight of hand and a P.O. Box- an easily accessible business through the pen and paper. Just write the man, and as long as you aren't hoping to pry into his personal life, he'll be more than happy to return your query with a cryptic, almost Confucius-like wisdom. He took a large step last year, gracing a European stage with an unannounced performance, and he has another one billed for this calendar year. And of course, he gave his blessing to the minds behind Jandek on Corwood, the documentary trying to discover just who is Jandek the musician.

What makes Jandek on Corwood work is how the subject is approached. This is not guerrilla storytelling. Director Chad Freidrichs doesn't go chasing the myth, nor does he seek out the origins and private life of Jandek. Instead, Freidrichs focuses on telling the story of Jandek and his music by letting Jandek's music be the focus of the story. Throughout the film dark shots of eerie landscapes, playgrounds, beaches, and small towns fill the gaps between interviews and lore. Jandek's brand of music is allowed to dictate the pace and the shape of the story, which lends itself to a wonderful tale of the power and effect the musician and his songs have on a variety of listeners.

The music may function as the centerpiece, but a documentary would be nothing without interviews and insights from the cornucopia of people involved, either directly or indirectly, in Jandek's musical life. The most compelling interviews come from those who have had the most contact with Jandek and his music. Phil Milstein, who is admittedly a huge Jandek fan, wrote the first published review of Ready for the House for Op Magazine. His insightful review not only turned a handful of adventurous publishers and music lovers into Jandek fans, but it is the singular cause behind Jandek's release of more content. John Trubee is quite possibly the diamond in the rough within Jandek on Corwood. Trubee, who was recruited to write for the then-fledgling Spin Magazine, is the only person to be interview Jandek over the telephone. Excerpts from the conversation are used to explain a myriad of subjects from Jandek's unorthodox tunings, the origin of his name, and his musical joys (Jandek digs Tom Petty. Who knew?). If the excerpts aren't enough, the DVD contains the entire phone conversation, which is worth the rental/purchase alone.

Jandek fans and haters can find something to enjoy watching Jandek on Corwood. The presentation is crisp, and the subject isn't dissected so much as inspected. No matter how many performances Jandek plans in the future; no matter how many albums he continues to push out; no matter how many people see, hear or touch him, he will always be a living example of man overcoming image to create unique sound in his own private world. It's a world we should all respect and admire, and one that we should be privileged not to inhabit beyond the occasional dalliance into Jandek's musical catalogue.
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"They told me about you."
udar559 June 2006
This documentary examines Jandek, a Texas based musician who does scary blues inspired folk rock. Jandek has amassed a small cult following due to his prolific output (close to 50 albums on his own label Corwood Industries since 1978) and his obsessive behavior of being a recluse. Who is Jandek? Or, more appropriate, what is Jandek? We see interviews with lots of Jandek fans and writers who have profiled him. They all give their thoughts and theories on who this man is, why he does what he does and the mystery behind this guy. JANDEK ON CORWOOD is fascinating in that it continues the mythos of the man rather than solving the mystery (which I am sure is how Jandek wanted it). As one interviewee states, "My reaction to hearing about it was a lot strong than my reaction to actually hearing it." It also examines the definitions of what art is and the resulting satisfactions from it are. Should we look down or up to a guy who craves no commercial success or recognition (I looked up some info on Jandek after seeing this and was surprised to find out that he recently did his first live show in 2004. Naturally, it was done secretly with no advance word)?
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enigmatic recluse
emilysearle8 July 2004
Jandek on Corewood is an film on the reclusive artist that has been around for 25 years. Jandek has influenced Beck, Sonic Yoth, and has been spoken about in interviews by the late Kurt Cobain.

An enigma is the best way to describe him and his music, refusing to do interviews and have his photo taken, or to even reveal who he is has left people even more captivated by him and his music.

This film interviews many people in the music industry who have been fans for years and have collected his records over the past 25 years. They all describe what he and who he is to them.

I liked this film very much, the people who made it (in my opinion) didn't want to make a documentary that tracked him down and tried to interview him finally, they talked to people who had done that and to people who came close. It's as if they don't want to know anymore about him. They just want to take in his music and to believe he is a loner, a man sitting in a dusty room in Texas, playing a guitar only for himself choosing not to become part of the norm and be a truly unique artist both in his image and his sound.
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attempted meaningfulness
jonathan-57727 December 2006
Well here's an interesting subject for a documentary - a reclusive musician who puts out his own music under a shroud of secrecy, and the search for his true identity. Sort of an indie-rock "Who Is Bozo Texino?" Only this one is inelegant, overextended, and strained in its attempted meaningfulnesses. There's a lot of stupid cutaways - but a different kind of stupid cutaway than the last rockdoc I disliked, I'm Your Man: where the latter breaks things up with shots of birds or Leonard Cohen's soulful countenance in slow motion, this one gets all literal (A FULL MINUTE of pouring beer footage accompanies somebody saying "we went out for a beer"). Way too many interviews with smart ass white boy rock types - including an old fave, John Trubee, who donates the ultra-rare tape-of-Jandek-interview that the whole film builds up to, in fact it tells us most of the content before we get there, sigh. It's none too revealing. Around here I got the feeling that these guys were copping serious style from Errol Morris, and botching it. And well before that it occurred to me that the major 'mystery' that they try to hook us on is: "Is this dude 'crazy'???" It's the wrong question to ask, and they never make me care about the answer. I get the impression that no one in the movie likes the music, either.
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`Jandek on Corwood': A legacy of ambiguity, and a fine film
Matt Hurst6 May 2004
The first feature length film from the documentary film team of Director Chad Friedrich and Paul Fehler, `Jandek on Corwood', drives itself on the principle laid out by one of its star commentators Dr. Demento; the mystery of this elusive recording artist is `more interesting than the music itself'. Following the musical legacy of the prolific and legendary (if non-commercial) recording artist calling himself Jandek, releasing his own records in short supply on the ambivalent sounding Corwood Industries imprint, the film seeks to trace a story out of his 33 albums recorded over the last quarter century. Featuring record reviewer and obscure recording fanatics alike giving their arm chair psychoanalysis of an artist that only a select few of them have ever even had correspondence with, the film captivatingly pulls us into the history of an artist that very few of us would ever have been exposed to in any other way. `Jandek on Corwood' is a touching tribute to the unaccredited and misunderstood artist that can never appear in his own film. None the less, Jandek (a name amalgamated from others by the artist) is the unseen star of this film. His music is the natural soundtrack that the film circles around. Jandek's music has been called childish, trance-like, detuned, 5-string blues, which becomes `frightening.because it's honest'. At first the atonal harmonies and free associated crooning of a alienating quality leave the audience disillusioned to the talent of the prolific musician. However, as the film progresses and differing sounds are experimented with, Jandek becomes an inspiring (if depressing) talent whose unappreciated gift becomes known only to us through his mysterious avoidance of publicity (itself a seemingly artistic choice or principal that the film is careful to take note of). Our only guides on the screen outside of the artists' music become the few who appreciate his work. Music reviewers, radio hosts (such as Dr. Demento), art professors, intrigued journalists, and the isolated fans of Jandek's work become sources of scattered information, appreciation, and speculation. When it comes to Jandek, we are told, you `have to talk about other people's interpretations' in the lieu of an absent artist. Many of these devoted fans initially projected an iconography upon Jandek that transitioned from `anti-social to social, even on a minimal scale' as his releases progressed. `There's art here that's not representational' one critic contends, while still others suggest that `The appeal.is that it's unappealing'. Indeed, our unseen star becomes the object of intrigue and speculation on our own parts after seeing and hearing the commentaries of those on screen. To help aid the viewer imagine Jandek's world speculated on by others and projected by his music, director Chad Friedrich goes out of his way to film beautiful and sometimes frightening imagery to match the music playing on the screen. His gorgeous photography of rural Texan property set to sunset and moonlight paint portrait ready pictures matching the isolation heard in some of Jandek's songs described as a `33 volume suicide note'. Other times we watch seat stiffening camera truck across a maddening green lit hotel room littered with rolls of 4-track tape and bloody sheets as we hear his maddest works. Some of the best shots make use of the only photographs of the artist that exist on the album covers, using the usual camera pan across photos and advertisements. Even still shots of old town America take a turn for the strange creepiness, now projected not only in Jandek's music but on film as well. While `Jandek on Corwood' itself follows many of the conventions of documentary filmmaking down to the traditional subject chapter organization, Friedrich and Fehler must have spent many late nights planning the sequence on the film. Following a basic introduction of Jandek's history (Reviews, the recluse, albums and covers, advertisements and the label), the team moves us heavily into the draw of the film found in the artist's mystery. We move forward with personal accounts, uncovering the mystery that many of the fans would rather to never know, and developing periods of Jandek's recordings. The climax is built towards the dark reenactment of the only recorded interview with Jandek, which answers so many of the questions the personalities speculate about earlier in the film. Fittingly the film ends with a legacy to carry on, with an in depth discussion of his iconography and the so-called `last songs' they anticipated, only to find Jandek release yet another recording with a `last song'. `Jandek on Corwood' is an enjoyable operetta to an artist we will never know or truly understand. Its stars on screen do their best to explain their treasured enigma that many of the viewers could have been made aware of if not for the film. Chad Friedrich and Paul Fehler make what every documentary film ought to be like in `Jandek on Corwood'; they capture our attention with something we would never have learned about elsewhere. Whether the reclusive artist is conceived by accident or design, `Jandek on Corwood' sheds light on a previously scarcely known artist, that many of us can't help but proudly hide after we add it to our record collections, and makes the movie as much of a must see as the records are a new must find for the audience.
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Enchanting (the film, not the music)
keyofz14 December 2003
A strangely moving and well-produced chronicle of a legendary musical enigma, Jandek on Corwood captures the mystique of this reclusive human question mark without dispelling it. As with Joseph Lanza's terrific book 'Elevator Music,' the film, in my estimation, is more absorbing than the music itself. One fan observed that what Jandek creates isn't music -- it's an atmosphere. This film's shadowy, understated tone echoes its subject's spooky aura.

Recommended, even if you don't know -- or if you loathe -- Jandek's recordings.

Irwin Chusid Author, Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music
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hilarious and very entertaining
jandekian7 September 2007
there are those individuals who knew sterling before they knew jandek. to those persons, the "buzz" around and about the corwood rep is very entertaining and hilarious in the sense that it so NOT him. jandek is sterling, but sterling is definitely not jandek. corwood doesn't perform in houston because of this. sterling loves houston because of the heat, the humidity and the vegetation. he is extremely cordial to his friends and fellow artists and he is very intense and serious about his artistic vision. he couldn't care less about publicity unless it points and draws attention to his art/music. however, i do sense that he is coming out of his shell and maybe in the near future will actually conduct written interviews with certain elements of the press. but don't hold your breath on that one.
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An excellent film
jasonx127 September 2004
'In 1978, a musician released his first album, Ready For The House. It featured a lonely voice accompanied by acoustic guitar. His subsequent recordings made him one of the most prolific artists in contemporary music. Almost nobody has noticed.' -preface to Jandek on Corwood

Picture yourself making a documentary about a musical entity that refuses to be interviewed or photographed. By anyone. Sound daunting? Two young filmmakers, director Chad Friedrichs and producer Paul Fehler, traveled 22,000 miles, shot 50 hours of footage and interviewed 24 people to do just that.

'Little waves spill over the rocks, you can peel mica from the rocks, as it shines like smooth silver…'

The first images of the new documentary Jandek on Corwood illustrate this seemingly abstract prose perfectly. Ocean waves roll over a beach of small stones under cold gray skies. 'And there's a lighthouse in the distance…' Indeed the lighthouse is there, and suddenly the early Jandek song 'Point Judith' (from 1981's Six and Six) takes on a very literal meaning. Point Judith is an actual ocean town in Rhode Island, and the waves, rocks, and lighthouse that Jandek sang about all those years ago really do exist.

This revelation and several others concerning Jandek are thanks to the efforts of Chad Friedrichs and Paul Fehler, who worked for a year and a half to produce Jandek on Corwood, a self-financed documentary about the reclusive Texas musician who has somehow produced an enormous and cathartic body of work (34 albums and counting) without hardly anyone even noticing.

rest of review at http://www.ibrecords.com/journal/entry.php?idB4
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