Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

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Director Sam Jones set out to document a recording project by the innovative and critically acclaimed country-rock band Wilco, then stumbled onto one of the bigger music stories of 2001 when Reprise Records decided the album wasn't a moneymaker and abruptly dropped the band from its roster. This black-and-white film is beautifully shot, and its early scenes, set in the band's Chicago rehearsal space, have an intuitive feel for the excitement of creative discovery. The record-industry intrigue takes place mostly off camera, with the odd result that the film becomes more pedestrian, mixing live performances and talking-head interviews, as the story becomes more engrossing. Jones also eavesdrops on the widening rift between songwriting partners Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett when the two fall out during a mixing session (in contrast to the stereotypical tantrum thrower, Tweedy is maddeningly passive-aggressive). After Tweedy kicks Bennett out of the band, Jones uses an audio track of Bennett singing solo in a small club, back at the bottom again, to undercut the pop-star imagery of the remaining members strolling along the lakefront. In the last two decades rock documentaries have become ubiquitous on TV but marginalized as cinema; this is the rare exception that deserves its place on the big screen. 92 min. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, August 2 through 8.

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