NEIL YOUNG JOURNEYS
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Neil Young and Bob Young
Once every few years, there comes a concert film that’s so memorizing, it’s transportive, putting you in better seats than the front row. This definitely applies to Director Jonathan Demme’s NEIL YOUNG JOURNEYS. It’s a stunning and resplendent mix of behind-the-scenes footage of the master singer-songwriter in the town where he grew up, capturing a full circle moment for the iconic rock star. This is what happens when two masters in their respective fields get together to create magic. It’s explosive.
The film is mostly concert footage of Young’s one man tour. He plays a few songs from the 70′s mixed in with songs off 2010′s LE NOISE record. The show is interwoven with Young (who’s somewhat of a gearhead) driving around Omemee (a small town outside of Toronto), Ontario in his 1956 Crown Victoria reminiscing about his childhood. During these stories, Young is cool, calm, and open. They stand as a perfect counterpoint to the intense performance he gives on stage for two nights at Massey Hall. Not heavy on biography, Demme lets the music tell the story. And it’s not a complete retrospective either. Just a corner on the road this performer’s life has taken.
I must make it a point to say that I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself to be a huge Neil Young fan. While his music is great, it’s not something I find myself ever reaching for. Nevertheless, I can appreciate the masterful way he channels his political rage into beautiful prose. He’s a dynamic performer who benefits when he reunites with Demme. As this is their third outing together (HEART OF GOLD and TRUNK SHOW being the previous two), there’s a certain tangible relaxed attitude from Young as he takes us on a tour of his hometown. Demme’s shooting style elevates the songs to a fresh new level – one with perspective. Perhaps the most transcendent segment takes place during Young’s ballad “I Believe In You.” Demme (along with cinematographer Declan Quinn) shoots through a piano with Young’s face obscured by the instrument. It’s heart-rending and brilliant. Going handheld for a few of the songs adds to the gravitas of the picture and adds a new dimension to his music.
It’s an intimate portrait of a rock star and an exquisite concert documentary that gives us a peek behind the curtain at two enigmatic storytellers. This film proves to be worth catching in a theater as his music hits notes that sock viewers in their gut – a feeling most of us won’t be able to replicate in our home theaters. It resonates not just in lyric but also in melody. Simply put, this film sings!
NEIL YOUNG JOURNEYS opens in New York and Los Angeles on June 29.