On this date in 2002, Sam Jones’ I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART: A FILM ABOUT WILCO was released in theaters. It came on the heels of the release of Wilco’s fourth studio album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which became a major story in the music business (and for fans) when the band was dropped from Reprise after turning in the album, multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett was unceremoniously dropped from the band, and Wilco found a new home with Nonesuch Records. Much of this activity was captured by Jones’ 16mm black and white camera in over 86 hours of footage, and then edited down to a mostly crisp 96 minutes that gave insights into Wilco’s creative process, and personal interaction, as well as presenting a bunch of killer live performances. Since I saw it in the summer of ’02 at the Varsity Theater in downtown Chapel Hill, it’s been one of my all-time favorite rock docs ever.
|From the press kit for I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART (2002)|
“Wilco reconvene at Chicago Recording Company Studios (aka CRC), where noted cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm is seen working out his part for ‘Reservations.’ There then follows a sequence of shots from the mixing board during work on ‘I’m The Man Who Loves You,’ which are used largely to set up the first event of friction in the film.
|Jay Bennett waves goodbye after his last show with Wilco, Chicago 7/4/01.|
The next thing we know, Bennett is out of the band, and Reprise has let them know that if they don’t change the album they should take it elsewhere. We witness Wilco’s manager Tony Margherita bitch on the phone about the situation, while rock critics Greg Kot, who wrote the first book about the band, 2003’s Wilco: Learning How to Die; and Rolling Stone’s David bitch about the sad state of the music biz in the early aughts.
In 2015, Tweedy discussed the doc at a special screening of one of his favorite films, Chris Smith’s AMERICAN MOVIE (1999) with the Modern School of Film’s Robert Milazzo at the Carolina Theater in Durham.
Milazzo: “Camera – you do such a beautiful song called ‘Kamera,’ which speaks to that…
Tweedy: “It just felt like, I don’t know if I’ve ever been able to put myself outside of myself enough to see what a camera might be seeing. And so there were a lot of moments during the process of making that record where I was like ‘oh, no – oh, no, that’s what the camera is seeing.’ Obviously, this is not – our relationship with Jay (Bennett) for example was made painfully obvious that there was a big problem in the way we were interacting, the way he was interacting with the band. And it’s really sad that it took a camera to do that or that we weren’t together enough, or grown up enough as people to see that without a camera.”
This would be fantastic for Criterion to add this film to their esteemed Collection. If you don’t know Criterion, they put out deluxe, often definitive editions of movies, and while the original had an extra disc of excellent material, fans know that there was a lot of stuff (the aforementioned 86 hours) Jones shot for the film (Jay Bennett said “We gave him three movies. It should’ve been a box set”), and this would be a great way for that stuff to see the light of day.
I wrote to firstname.lastname@example.org to request it, and hope my fellow fans will do the same. It ideally would help get it streaming again on their channel too.
So Happy 20th Anniversary to I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART. Here’s hoping more folks, whether hardcore or casual Wilco fans, will give it a watch in tribute.