On October 17th of this year, at roughly five o'clock Scotland time, a slender man in a black suit and cap quietly took the stage at Glasgow's Instal Festival--and with no introduction (and more than a little audience confusion), began to strum an acoustic guitar. Within an hour, the man--who said little beyond introducing himself as a "representative from Corwood Industries"--had quietly disappeared from the stage. After decades of zealous speculation, the world learned more about Jandek in that Glaswegian hour than it has in the span of his 26-year career. This was the Shroud of Turin. This was Jesus coming back from the dead. This was, quite simply, a modern day miracle.
So why, you ask, haven't you ever heard of this miracle man? The answers to that question are as complicated as Jandek's story--but for the sake of shorthand: Jandek is known primarily for recording 38 albums' worth of some of the most singularly unlistenable music ever produced. But in the case of Jandek, the music is really only peripheral.
Directed by Chad Friedrichs, Jandek On Corwood (a film that predates Jandek's recent public appearance) attempts to shed light on the sub-famous enigma--one of contemporary music's most prolific voices who has, over his 26 years of releasing records, only been coaxed into one interview, has (until this October) never made a public appearance, and has successfully stymied all attempts made to gain information about his life. Corwood Industries, the record label that releases Jandek's records, is an equal mystery--reachable only by a P.O. Box in Texas, the same P.O. Box for the last 26 years. The vast mystery of Jandek, more than even his music, has fueled a fervent cult of quiet obsessives around the country--all of whom seemed ecstatic to share their own projected theories on the mystery man with Friedrichs.
The film walks a fine line between invasive obsession and respectful distance--painting endless circles around the idea of Jandek without ever penetrating. Without any actual footage of the man to mine, Jandek On Corwood marries interviews with scraps of paper, record covers, and syrup-paced portraits of space--playing out like a brilliantly existential meditation that's as much about nothingness as it is anything tangible--and ultimately, a strangely satisfying payoff.