- Running time:
- 87 minutes
- Jonathan Demme
- Official Movie Web Site:
- Overall User Rating:
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It's only fitting for a documentary about Neil Young to venture to Canada's Northern Ontario region — his birthplace and the subject of a song.
Even the name of the small town sounds like a possible Young refrain: Omemee|-|…rock 'n' roll will never die….
It certainly stays alive in this spare and intriguing film directed by Jonathan Demme, who has helmed two previous Young concert films.
Here, the 66-year-old rocker pilots a 1956 Crown Victoria through his rural hometown, casually pointing out a school named for his writer father Scott Young, a favorite fishing hole and reminiscing about the kid who convinced him to eat tar.
Traveling in the car ahead of him is his older brother Bob, driving at precisely the speed limit, something Young recounts with a sly smile.
The folk-rocker's modest storytelling style never gets lost in minutiae or sentimental reveries — like his songwriting, it's succinct and poignant.
It's hard not to want more from Young's cruise through town. But he has somewhere else to be: Toronto's Massey Hall, site of his solo Le Noise concert tour stop in May 2011.
He opens with Ohio, and it's startling how powerful that 1970 protest song remains today, augmented here with the names and photos of the four Kent State shooting victims.
During the concert Young's face is photographed for maximum intimacy — sometimes just his mouth fills the screen, thanks to a camera mounted on the microphone. Among the featured songs are such classics as Down by the River, After the Gold Rush and Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black), as well as the more recent Sign of Love.
His distinctive alto voice has become seasoned over the years, conveying all the power imaginable in his lyrics, underscored by a range of emotional urgency from his guitar licks.
While not quite as expansive or ambitious as Demme and Young's first collaboration, 2006's |-|Neil Young: Heart of Gold, the style here is completely different. In that film, he was accompanied by up to 30 musicians and a gospel choir. Here, Young performs simply with a guitar and harmonica, or piano. minus a back-up band that we never miss.The music is haunting. His storytelling has always plumbed the depths of the emotional landscape. Artistic integrity is a recurring theme
There's something appealingly wistful about both the concert and Young's hometown tour. Down-to-earth and affable, Young recalls key moments in his youth but doesn't mourn the loss of it. Similarly, he doesn't skim the cream from his vast catalog of songs. He chooses a deeply personal mix of old and new, each song exploring fascinating emotional terrain.
Demme, whose eclectic roster of films includes Talking Heads' classic Stop Making Sense , Silence of the Lambs, and Rachel at the Wedding, is clearly fascinated by Young's musical integrity and wants the audience to share his passion
Neil Young Journeys underscores the continuing relevance of Young's artistry over the last 45 years and why he is regarded as one of rock's most influential musicians and songwriters. The introspective tales of his youth are an artful counterpoint to the urgency of his musical selections. He doesn't tout it or even refer to it, but Young endures. He hasn't burnt out and he's certainly not rusting or fading away.