[Review] – Neil Young Journeys

11 Jul

Title: Neil Young Journeys
Year: 2012
Director: Jonathan Demme
Writer: –
Starring: Neil Young
MPAA Rating: PG, language including some drug references, and brief thematic material
Runtime: 87 min
IMDb Rating: 4.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Metacritic: 75

Last year, Neil Young did a solo tour in support of his latest album, “Le Noise”, and the last two stops on that tour were two shows at Toronto’s iconic Massey Hall. Now, Mr. Young lives in Omemee, Ontario, so Mr. Young could actually drive his 1956 Crown Victoria from his hometown to the venue. And he brings Jonathan Demme, a long-time fan, friend and collaborator who with this one has completed his Neil Young trilogy, after 2006’s Neil Young: Heart of Gold and 2009’s Neil Young Trunk Show, and we get some great stories from the master interwoven with footage from those intimate final stops in his latest tour, as Mr. Demme gives us, through both stories and songs, a look into Neil Young.

Thankfully, because all concert movies are all about the concert itself, the stuff on-stage we get is truly terrific. Mr. Young, one of the most infinitely influential musicians of all time, straps on his guitar and commences a distorted and very much magical journey into his catalogue as we also bear witness to his journey as a person, as the carride to the venue serves to stop at some places that marked his childhood, and for to reminisce.

As such, Neil Young Journeys is definitely the one that feels the most revelatory and intimate about his subject of the three films Mr. Demme has made about him. Now, it’s not as though this is a film that will make you look at Neil Young in a totally different way, because this is still a man that’s very, very guarded about his personal space and his privacy. But even if Mr. Demme isn’t one of those documentarians that just probes and probes as if poking with a stick until a really shocking truth comes out, and instead is just a fan who likes to listen, the stuff he gets to listen to is pretty great; pair that up with intimate shows in which the legend is alone on stage, causing the venue to shake with his guitar, moving around like an old genius, giving his old crackly voice to an adoring audience, and by the end of this one you do feel as though you know Neil Young just a bit.

Also helping that very intimate film is the fact that we follow him around stage in these close-ups, many of them from below the microphone that, as we can literally see into the man’s mouth, we get the feeling that we can maybe see into his mind, too. But really it’s just very cool to see him at work, half a century after his career started, now a man well into his sixties, giving us a concert that spans from the beloved songs from that time to the new ones from his most recent solo output, with his songs and his appearance and voice letting us know that this is a much who has lived through and who has given us so much.

The bits about him traveling around his hometown are also quite neat to get before Neil Young Journeys settles in as a pure concert film, because we see him pointing out stuff to us from his childhood that has shaped him, landmarks of years past, and we get to understand some of the songs we subsequently get a whole lot better, we get to see how those many memories have been imprinted into many songs to be sung by his wondrous voice. You get to find new snippets of information in the songs because of the new snippets of information you’re given about his life, and because of how it’s shot and how Mr. Demme constructs it all, you get the feeling that Neil Young’s telling that stuff just to you and no one else. And it’s damn great.

Trust me when I say that the way this one’s shot plays a big deal in how this movie will or won’t go down for you. You get right up there in the man’s face, you could analyze his stubble, the color of his teeth, you even get some spit flying into the camera. At times that closeness came close to not doing it for me, I know it’s like, really getting personal with the man in yet another way, to really just make it about him and about the stories he tells, but it got a bit uncomfortable at times. But then you just had to forget about that, focus on the songs he was singing, and that would be the end of that discussion with yourself.

The point is, if you like Neil Young, and you really should, then this film will definitely do it for you. You get the most intimate look at the man yet, you get to see him in his hometown and on-stage, telling us stories and playing through the songs that embody them, both old and new and played with a wide array of instruments, most noticeably, of course, that big electric guitar that sends shivers down the stage. This man is a true living legend, and he is a true force to be reckoned with when he’s up there on-stage, shredding his guitar, giving all of his voice to the crowd; if you’re a fan of the man, this is a necessary and essential portrayal that you can’t miss.

Grade: A-

One Response to “[Review] – Neil Young Journeys”

  1. jumpingpolarbear July 11, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    Neil is still the man :).

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