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