Heart of Gold (2006) was an ecstatic communal celebration, and Trunk Show (2009) was a psychedelic mash note from the underground. Neil Young Journeys, director Jonathan Demme’s third concert-film collaboration with the great Neil Young, is a grubby transmission from the id—the logical next step in a series that focuses with laserlike precision on varying facets of the singer-songwriter and his extraordinary aptitude for musical form and feeling. This time around, the director documents a 2011 Young solo show in Toronto (the musician’s birthplace), but in an intentionally fractured way: Demme consistently cuts back and forth between Young’s feverishly impassioned performance at Massey Hall and a number of low-key interview segments conducted while driving his Crown Victoria to the venue. The effect is not unlike observing a man in midbreakdown as he desperately tries to reconcile conflicting pieces of his psyche.
Journeys’ set list reflects the inner turmoil: Past hits like “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)” and the Kent State–commemorating “Ohio”—which Demme powerfully augments with supertitle statistics and footage of the massacre—share space with a number of hazy electric-thrash cuts from the 2010 album Le Noise. (It’s as if the wizened Young is conversing and clashing with his naively clear-eyed younger self.) Adding to the enthralling dissonance is Declan Quinn’s uncomfortably intimate cinematography—Young’s spittle at one point abstractly blurs a microphone-cam view—which keeps us at such an inescapable proximity to the movie’s subject that we come to feel a part of his vision-cum-delusion (or is that the other way around?). “I’m on this journey / I don’t wanna walk alone,” howls Young. What can we do but follow?
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