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Jandek on Corwood
Jandek on Corwood
Actors: Byron Coley, Calvin Johnson, Barry Hansen, John Foster, Richie Unterberger
Director: Chad Freidrichs
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Documentary, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2004     1hr 28min

The documentary film Jandek on Corwood definitively explores the most intriguing mystery in modern music. Featuring revealing interviews, evocative imagery and one of the most bizarre and compelling soundtracks in film hi...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Byron Coley, Calvin Johnson, Barry Hansen, John Foster, Richie Unterberger
Director: Chad Freidrichs
Creators: Chad Freidrichs, Paul Fehler
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Documentary, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Pop, Rock & Roll, Documentary, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Chad Friedrichs
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 11/30/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 28min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Jandek on Corwood
George T. Parsons | Nevada City, CA | 12/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"You get to see this invisible man emerge by way of the very few people who have glimpsed, seen, or spoken to him. Somewhere in the history and mystery of Houston, Texas there is this fellow, who alone and with companions has made a large body of some of the most willfully uncommercial and purely personal music ever recorded. He's only spoken to a couple people in his career (I'm one of them), and only done one interview, but has become a legend and inspired a couple tribute albums and this very watchable and respectful film. This successfully captures the singular Jandek vibe, as it unfolds like the mystery story that it ultimately is. Despite my admitted lack of objectivity, I found this one of the rare music related films that worked as a film, as well as it did an exploration of the artist."
Eternal navel-gazing of the Indie rockcrit...
G. HIGGINS | 03/25/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"The work of Sterling Smith, aka Jandek, the reclusive representative from Corwood Industries, is sadly miscast as "outsider art." This disc's positive elements stem mostly from the quality and consistency of Jandek's recordings over time; the soundtrack is strong. Unfortunately the endless line of talking heads act to its detriment; mostly scribblers with varying degrees of talent, literacy and knowledge of their field wax on about the purported mysteries of the man. Byron Coley stands out as entertaining and concise, with less tendency to myth-build; overall though, the sense of the work veers towards self-parody. The foolish practice of American rock journalists taking themselves far too seriously is the disc's main trope. I half-expected Anthony DeCurtis and Lou O'Neill Jr. to enter with prissy cameos damning the Texan's efforts.

Which is specious right off the bat since most of the commentators should know better. Jandek's main touchstone is Blind Willie Johnson's wordless masterpiece "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" from the late 1920's. Johnson was active in Beaumont, not far from Jandek's home base of Houston, and the company reissuing his works is named Yazoo ("river of death") after the legendary Mississippi waterway. Obviously there is much more going on in Jandek's albums, but the haunting, echo-drenched illusion of formlessness and sense of despair stems from here. Jandek is perfectly lucid in the one recorded interview with John Trubee; his main characteristic seems to be reticence.

Then again the whole notion of "outsider art" is facile, if not outright evil. Is there some gradient with which to weigh "errant" creativity? A checklist for disabilities? "This singer has Tourette's, that one has Epstein-Barr's, this one has OCD, that one's a homeless amputee"...there is something patently offensive about that. Four decades ago, Angus Maclise was "out there;" Hermann Nitsch was, and remains "out there." Jandek is a compelling and idiosyncratic songwriter, whose brand of lonesome bedroom blues is particularly distilled.

I wonder if the goofy pundits @ Spin and Option and RS would ever admit one possibility: that Mr. Smith listened to Hendrix and Zeppelin just like every other teenager in the 70's before establishing his own idiom. American rock critics prefer to minimize the impact of pop culture, to play down its homogenizing effects, which is what makes music like Jandek's seem more outre than it is. They also do it a disservice by marginalizing it with simplistic reductions and emphasizing, ad nauseum, the anecdotal negative reactions of their peers. So what? Shut up and listen."
Good documentary
William Hoffknecht | Fernley, NV | 05/06/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"So this is a documentary on the character that is Jandek, and for those that are unaware, Jandek is one of the most mysterious figures in music and has been for about the last 30 years.
The details of his life are barely known, kind of like his actual name, and somehow this man produces some of the weirdest, mostly atonal music every heard. Somehow Jandek has the ability to make every album sound like a suicide note.
As for the movie, it is a good documentary of the few people that has confirmed interviews with the man and about his music in general. If you are interested in the artist, then this movie is well worth picking up. Also it is good for modern music historians as well as a small chronical of his work and influence.
Check it out."
Some Mysteries Revealed
Jack M. Walter | Baltimore, MD | 05/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"A great documentary for Jandek fans, although I don't think many who are not familiar with his music would appreciate this work. The bulk of the movie is interviews with music critics, but a surprise telephone interview with the eccentric and reclusive artist at the film's end answers some crucial questions. But the most important question is: do we really want to know anything about Jandek or do we want the mystery to continue? Sometimes knowledge lessens the allure."