Documentary Video 89:00 2003 Chicago Premiere
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. From the bluesy, atonal music and haunting lyrics, to the artist’s steadfast seclusion and sheer longevity, everything about this man intrigues. Twenty-five years, 34 albums, and not a single live show or public appearance. Slowly, word of Jandek spread, primarily through college radio stations and obscure fanzines.
The music and lyrics grew more personal and frightening with each successive release (“I passed by the building you live in and I wanted to die, I just stood there and cried. Stretched tight across his bones, blood running down his cheeks, children gazing at his feet.”) For years the albums would keep coming, offering nothing for the listener to consider other than a blurry photograph and the music. The covers seemed to contain clues that led to nothing, with Jandek appearing at many different ages, curtains always drawn, sometimes having just a picture of an instrument. His contact with the outside music world (which had begun at least tentatively, occasionally chatting with a music journalist or DJ, even granting a short interview for a young Spin Magazine) had by 1986 shrunken to one-sentence correspondence on his catalogue mailings, the non-image soon became the image. The man and the music became a mystery many would try to solve.
And now someone has constructed a documentary about a musical entity that refuses to be interviewed or photographed. 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. To believe the remarkable capacity their interviews and images have to create the poetic idea of Jandek, his music, and his image, you’ll have to see this film.