I’m not telling ya to see it, I’m just telling ya…(Thoughts on Neil Young’s Journeys)

We went to see Neil Young’s Journeys, followed by a talk by the Director, Jonathan Demme. It was one of those things where it was economical, a chance to dine and whine a little with friends, and maybe have some geeky delight in the process.  The talk afterwards was moderated by our local film critic Stephen Whitty (The Star Ledger), who tried to keep the director’s often overwhelming fandom at bay. It was nice just sit in the theatre and listen to someone so passionate about his work and so generous regarding his good fortune to be in the right place and the right time. Demme rambled on about the film, some other films of his , flavoring his talk with impressions of stoners, roadies, Hannibal Lecter  and Snowbear.

Demme also spoke of the “tricky leap” one takes when going from concert movie to concert documentary. I really appreciated the delicacy of the analogy, because I am a fan of both genres and this movie provides the best of both worlds…an intimate backstage taste of the performer, cut with some good old fashioned rock and roll. Too many docs fail to give you the artist, this film gives you an entire concert. See Neil on his Gretsch, wailing on the whammy bar, see Neil driving from Ontario to Toronto  in a Crown Victoria, see him (disinfecting)? his harmonica, all spliced together for the enjoyment of fans of the music, fans of movies, and fans of just going for a drive in a big old ’56 Crown Victoria.

Co-starring in this movie is the beautiful Massy Hall, whose wonderful history is summarized here: http://www.filmfestival.be/pressfiles/neilyoungjourneys_presskit.pdf

Demme told a story about the end of the first night of the two night Toronto gig, the players are backstage where they will be swiftly whisked away before the audience stops cheering.  There is little dialogue in the movie that does not take place in the vintage car so we (the audience at the Basie watching the film) are happy for this little tidbit: The director channels the voice of Young, who was impersonating the voice of  a longtime  member of the entourage: (growling a little)  “The rabbit really came out of the hat tonight, Snowbear.”  A quick internet search reveals that this story has been told many times, yet tonight it seemed fresh and funny.

A highlight of the experience is a haunting rendition of You Never Call (available on youtube) that blends the bending guitar chords and a sorrowful, taunting refrain. The singer appears to be in physical pain, and it is as if he is taking that pain for you, the listener. Neil Young detractors would hold this tune up as a symbol of what they dislike about him.

I say see it on your nice television, and be a geek about it if and when you do. This is not a review, more of a bunch of thoughts, but it it were a review I would give it 3 out of 4 stars.

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