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Update: No Wilco Blu-ray ... for now

October 31, 2008 |  5:28 pm

Wilco_200 Plexifilm has stated that it will postpone indefinitely the Blu-ray release of Wilco's 2002 documentary "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" after the band e-mailed fans and suggested they not buy it.

Plexifilm founder Gary Hustwit e-mailed Pop & Hiss and directed us to a post on the company's website entitled "I am trying to release a Blu-ray."

In part, it reads, "We don’t feel comfortable releasing a version of the film that Wilco might have reservations about. So here’s what we’re doing: we’re postponing the Blu-ray release, to give us an opportunity to show the band the differences between the HD and standard definition versions."

As noted earlier, Wilco, in an e-mail to fans announcing tour dates and this week's appearance on "The Colbert Report," urged people not to buy the Blu-ray edition of the film.

The band wrote, "Without consulting us, the DVD company (not WB/Nonesuch) that released "I am trying to break your heart" is about to issue a Blu-Ray Edition which, no surprise, costs considerably more (nearly 2x) than the standard DVD ... there is, in our opinion, not much to be gained by spending the extra cash. It's your money... and in this case you should probably hang onto it. "

On Friday, Hustwit and Plexifilm posted an extensive response on the company's website, detailing the benefits of Blu-ray, and also stated that the decision to release a hi-def version of the film belongs to the filmmaker, in this case Sam Jones, and not the subject, in this case Wilco.

"Look, we’re huge Wilco fans too," reads the post on the site. "We co-produced the film and we’ve been distributing it for almost seven years now. But (stay seated fellow fans) this is not Wilco’s film… it’s Sam Jones’ film, that happens to be about Wilco. And at the end of the day, our responsibility is to the filmmakers whose work we distribute."

A spokesperson for Wilco says the band's management and Plexifilm are now in talks to resolve the dispute. Additionally, Wilco has posted an update on its own website, clarifying that the band does not doubt that Blu-ray is a superior format -- only whether or not the upgrade was worth the cost for a film shot in grainy, 16mm black and white. The band also writes that when the Blu-ray is finally released, it will solicit fans to compare the standard DVD versus the Blu-ray to see if there is a noticeable improvement.

Writes Wilco, "We'll reiterate the band were not involved in any way in remastering or otherwise preparing the film for Blu-ray production. That combined with that facts that the film was shot in 16mm [black and white] and, to our knowledge, the audio was not remastered makes us continue to question whether the potential incremental in audio/video quality is worth the price for THIS PARTICULAR PROJET."

The CAPS are Wilco's emphasis, and not that of Pop & Hiss.

"I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" chronicles the making of Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," considered by many to be the act's breakthrough work. It was also a tumultuous time in the band's history, with its label deal dissolving and key members being asked to leave. This period was also detailed in a book by the Chicago Tribune's Greg Kot, "Wilco: Learning How to Die."

Wilco, which now includes L.A.'s very own guitar experimentalist Nels Cline, will this winter be touring with Neil Young, as well as recording an album. Cline recently told Rolling Stone that the new album would be "much wilder, much more unexpected."

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Plexifilm