Film Reviews

Jonathan Demme's Neil Young Journeys, Another Journey Worth Joining

Not to knock films as fantastic as his Rachel Getting Married, The Silence of the Lambs and Something Wild, but there's something wilder — or at least, more directly stimulating and pure — about Jonathan Demme's live-performance docs.

The 68-year-old auteur immortalized a Talking Heads show (and David Byrne's oversized suit jacket) in Stop Making Sense. He cinematically enlarged a cozy Robyn Hitchcock set in Storefront Hitchcock. And he discovered a like-minded collaborator in the titular troubadour of 2006's Neil Young: Heart of Gold and 2009's Neil Young Trunk Show.

Now, teaming again with the Canadian legend, Demme and five other camera operators expertly capture an intense, pared-down 2011 solo show at Toronto's Massey Hall in the absorbing new Neil Young Journeys. The set list emphasizes Young's then-recent 33rd studio album, Le Noise, but not without perennial faves such as "After the Gold Rush" and "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)." Intercut between these songs, Journeys becomes both a noun and a verb. Tooling around with Demme in a 1956 Crown Victoria, scenes of Young's two-hour road trip from his northern Ontario hometown of Omemee to the concert hall is full of wistfully remembered childhood characters and milestones, which feel like they might one day be spun into lyrics. Onstage, behind a piano or sitting with a guitar and harmonica, Young doesn't need a backup band to take control of the room — or a movie theater.

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Aaron Hillis is a regular film contributor at Voice Media Group. VMG publications include Denver Westword, Miami New Times, Phoenix New Times, Dallas Observer, Houston Press and New Times Broward-Palm Beach.