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With: Neil Young
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
MPAA Rating: PG for language including some drug references, and brief thematic material
Running Time: 87
Date: 09/12/2011

Neil Young Journeys (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Walking with Neil

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jonathan Demme will be forever known for directing The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and a handful of other feature films, but horror and suspense has been such a tiny part of his career. At least half his time has been spent making documentaries and music videos, and especially documentaries about music. He made one of the greatest, the Talking Heads concert movie, Stop Making Sense (1984). Now, over the past half-dozen years, he has quietly made a trilogy about that great rocker Neil Young.

Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006) showcased Young's then-new album Prairie Wind. I somehow missed the second entry, Neil Young Trunk Show (2009), but now the third, Neil Young Journeys, is here. This one comes from a solo show at Massey Hall. The material is focused on his 2010 album, , includingtunes like "Love and War," "Walk with Me,""Hitchhiker," "Peaceful Valley Boulevard," and "Signof Love." It's hard to argue that the new songs are as poetic as the olderones. They're more literal, more blatantly upset about war and moreappreciative of love.

He also performs a handful of classics: "My, My, HeyHey (Out of the Blue)," "Ohio," and "Helpless" amongthem. Some of them spring powerfully to life, and others don't. One of the moststunning moments comes on a rare song, "Leia," sung with such achingtenderness that you want to weep. Demme films Young in long, unbrokenclose-ups, sometimes taking in the bare stage and rarely looking at theaudience. Unfortunately, he also uses a tiny camera mounted in or near themicrophone, which shoots right up Young's nostrils; this can be disconcertingto look at for long minutes at a time.

But for long stretches, while looking so closely at theman's face, you can begin to see the years of wondering, searching, andyearning. Demme also includes some odd backstage footage, such as a weird,solitary ritual -- involving what looks like beer and oranges -- that Youngperforms just before returning for his encore. Aside from the music, we get aglimpse of the man.

Additionally, between songs, Demme follows as Young and hisbrother drive around their Toronto hometown (in one of Young's beloved classiccars, a 1956 Ford Crown Victoria), checking out old sites and reliving oldmemories. Overall, it's not a dazzling or groundbreaking movie, but it's anawfully good one, showcasing one of our most durable and honest rockers. Iwon't say he's at his best here, because it's only partly true: he's always athis best.
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