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I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (Plexifilm)

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April 1 sees the release of the double-disc DVD of I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, the Sam Jones documentary on Wilco that was-and remains on the small screen-an intimate, dramatic, fulfilling, and fun-to-be-a-part-of piece of filmmaking. I'm guessing you know the story: Great band makes fourth record, grows from the loss of a member, has the new record thumbed down by their major label, turns around to sell the eventually hailed record to an independent-minded label that, up and across various ladders, is owned by the very major label that rejected them. The irony is lost on few, and if the Wilco guys feel like taking a break from being the creative workhorses they are, they've got dibs on the last laugh.

On the strengths of Wilco and Sam Jones-a commercially attuned photographer with a sincere passion for music-I assumed this DVD release would be in the spirit of the movie, only more so. And it is. In the hours of extra material, Jones remains tied to his mission of documenting a band he admires, and Wilco remain tied to their mission of making and performing the best record they've got in them.

In addition to the movie itself and the trailer, disc one offers start-to-finish commentary by Jones and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Leroy Bach, and Glenn Kotche. (Missing, obviously, is let-go member Jay Bennett.) While Jones continually offers background to various scenes-for instance, the film's opening drive through Chicago was a recreation of how Tweedy introduced the filmmaker to the city-the band members do well in making the viewer take them more seriously by not taking themselves too seriously. Tweedy, defending the fact that he's often wearing the same shirt over time, says, "I wanted to make it seemed like it all happened in one day-like Ulysses." When Rolling Stone writer David Fricke comes on screen for an interview, Tweedy describes him as "a smile wearing glasses." (Fricke's taken on an additional role with the DVD, supplying an enthusiastic fan's notes in the disc's 40-page booklet.)

While Tweedy has the most one-liners (a few about his apparently too-large ass), the other band members do get their time to chime in. The biggest group laugh arrives when the screen shows two or three bleachered and corn-on-the-cob eating Milwaukeeans catching sound-check at Summerfest; the band members joke that those people were not only the real audience, they were a group of hawking record executives gauging "a showcase." The humor subsides in places, most noticeably over Tweedy and Bennett's pivotal mixing-board argument about "Heavy Metal Drummer." As the scene approaches, a band member asks, "Can we fast-forward?" The joke's light enough to provide nervous laughter, but heavy enough to clear the band from the commentary room. Jones takes over, and Wilco returns only when the scene has passed.

Disc two holds the making-of featurette "I Am Trying to Make a Film," which is appropriately short for a behind-the-scenes project of a behind-the-scenes project. (Tweedy puts it even better, asking the cameraman, "Are you doing the ‘making of' the ‘making of'?") In the eight-minute piece, Jones explains that choosing Wilco "was the best thing I could have done," and shows appreciation that "they really let me into their lives." Also on disc two is an additional 70 minutes of footage, which varies in interest. There are a few live moments that rightfully stayed out of the main film, just for lack of pizzazz, as well a sampling of silliness-Tweedy moonwalking to "I'm the Man Who Loves You," more of the comic Fericito's riffing before a show, and the whole band full-on hamming before a revolving camera as a complete song plays back. There are also wonderful unseen live performances of a solo Tweedy, the highlights being the Uncle Tupelo-era "Wait Up," "Please Tell My Brothers," and a stirring reworking of "Sunken Treasure."

For me, the second disc's best moments are the most touching. My favorite occurs when the band's playing "Pieholden Suite" at sound-check. Tweedy's son dances around the empty hall's floor, playing can't-get-me with the spotlight, while Tweedy's wife leans against the stage, eyes closed, her arm around their youngest son who sits on the stage's edge. It's hours until the hall will fill with fans, but watching the scene, it seems the music's meaning is perhaps falling on the most grateful ears of all. It's a private, tender moment, and I'm grateful to have been invited in.
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