The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Rockin' Our DVD Player: Thax

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 18, 2008 6:02PM

ThaxPoet Thax Douglas has long been described as a polarizing figure in the local music scene, but after viewing the recent documentary on Douglas, Thax: The Movie, we've decided that viewpoint is skewed and incorrect. While there are a number of incredibly vocal critics who deride Douglas' presence at shows, the overriding majority of musicians and concert attendees appreciate his contributions to the community. Luminaries from Ted Leo, to Josh Caterer, to Jeff Tweedy sing the praises of Douglas' wordsmithing, and we even admit to gaining a new appreciation of his work now that we have a broader view of the poet's background.

A series of interviews conducted with the poet, sometimes with his parents present, is interspersed with archival footage of Douglas taken in the mid-'90s. It's this early footage that provides a bit of a shock as his svelte, clean shaven figure appears in both skewed art films and run-of-the-mill videotapes of parties with friends in progress. The story this footage, and the later interviews, tells is of an artist who has long worked at refining his craft. Casual observers might think Douglas merely whips off a few stanzas loosely related to a band just before they hit the stage, but this documentary portrays a man deeply invested in his work, and it helps display Douglas as he is - an integral and respected presence in the Chicago music scene.

It is only when the movie veers from this simple observation as it tried to play up some sort of falling out between Douglas and Wilco. This detour detracts from the focus of Douglas' talents in hopes of building up some sort of dramatic turning point for the movie to pivot upon, but my doing so the filmmakers do their subject a disservice.

Thax: The Movie is primarily a documentary of one man's internal struggles and successes that's punctuated with no small amount of self-deprecating humor fueled by a remarkable amount of self-awareness. We guarantee once you see this movie you'll never look the same way at the man at the lip of the stage introducing this or that band with a poem.