Jonathan Demme has reteamed with venerable rocker Neil Young for their third collabaritive concert-doc in six years with Neil Young Journeys. Staged at Toronto’s Massey Hall in May of 2011, Young returns to the home of some of his most legendary performances to capture on film two performances in front of frantic crowds.
Demme is one of our most talented directors, one who has seemingly left Hollywood behind to only work on projects he truly is passionate about. In a way, watching the Demme-Young trilogy makes me wonder what would have happened if Scorsese had directed a Robbie Robertson documentary before The Band performed their final concert; perhaps nothing would have changed, or maybe we never would have endured Shutter Island.
Either way, Demme’s camerawork here is breathtaking. There are seemingly camera shots taken from every conceivable angle, with today’s technology really coming in handy to enable shots from the mic stand and inside the piano to catch every ounce of energy that Young is infusing into his performance.
When not behind a microphone, Young rests behind the wheel of a 1956 Ford Crown Victoria, taking the audience on a tour of the tiny town of Omemee (the famous “town in North Ontario” in Young’s “Helpless”). He shares memories of the place that has impacted his life’s work in a tone that seems more relaxed than expected, considering there is a camera inches from his face inside this tank of an automobile.
While the film is staged as a homecoming of sorts, it should also be viewed as a reminder of a musical legend still within our lives. Here is a true songwriting legend, constantly forgotten when folks list the greatest of all time, who now isn’t in the greatest of health. While he doesn’t visit our area that often anymore, this may be the closest we come to basking in the glory of his greatness on a glowing screen and marvel at the beauty of his words.
Neil Young Journeys is playing now exclusively at the Cary Galaxy Cinema.