Movie review: Neil Young Journeys

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From the October 11, 2012 edition

Director Jonathon Demme (“Silence of the Lambs”) has an affinity for making concert films, but especially rock icon Neil Young. “Neil Young Journeys” is the third such film Demme has directed with Young as the subject matter.

This is a strong concert film because Young is a magnificent performer — and he’s returning to his native Canada for an intimate show at Toronto’s Massey Hall — but the overall construction of the “Journeys,” paired with some odd decisions by Demme detract from the performance.

In between songs (Young playing solo both acoustic and electric) is basically Young driving around Canada in a 1956 Ford Crown Victoria while reminiscing about his youth. It’s interesting only for hardcore fans as these moments are merely stories with little explanation on how they shaped the music legend Young became.

While it’s oddly jarring for cuts between Young’s music and digressions, two choices Demme made during the performance not only take you out of the moment, but are simply grating. The use of a mic camera — capturing only Young’s chin, mouth and nose — is odd and Demme hangs on the shot for minutes at a time. My other annoyance was the heavy-handedness Demme treats the seminal song “Ohio.” Splicing in shots from the Kent State tragedy is tolerable, but throwing the names of the deceased on screen and the date of the shooting is excessive.