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Movie Review: Neil Young Journeys

Neil Young. Photo by Declan Quinn, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Don’t let the title fool you – there is really no place to go in Neil Young Journeys. It is less a documentary and more a live concert put to tape, a resoundingly dull piece of production that is more a DVD-supplement than anything else.

Over an hour of concert footage made up of ten songs are poorly complemented with what can be no more than 10 minutes of ‘behind-the-scenes’ shots, all of which feature Mr. Young driving casually from his home town of Omemee towards Massey Hall in the heart of downtown Toronto.

The film starts out promising, with Young behind the wheel telling a couple mildly interesting anecdotes and facts about the small Ontario town from which he grew. The film quickly switches though to the concert and rarely ever returns.

Young is alone on stage with a handful of cameras following his show from May, a concert that featured mostly newer work. ‘Walk with Me,’ ‘Sign of Love,’ ‘Love and War,’ and perhaps the most interesting song from the shoe, ‘Hitchhiker,’ were all off his 2010 release, Le Noise. For some of the songs, however, director Jonathan Demme, a man with quite the portfolio of feature films and documentaries, including a couple others with Young, makes very questionable decisions.

A camera is placed just below the microphone on the stand in front of Young, affording the theatre audience a full frame shot of the scruffy chin and saliva-laden lips of a 60-plus year-old man. The shot is interesting for a moment, but the length at which Demme leaves it there becomes absurd, especially when Young brushes against it, leaving a blurred spot at the heart of the shot.

The ancillary story has Young arriving to Toronto, with his car traveling down the not-so-compelling 401 and soon thereafter arriving at the less exciting corner of Shuter and Victoria. He sips on a beer backstage before an encore, and slowly makes his way out of the building after the show, a slow and unexciting ending to a film that is nothing more than a concert on film.

Ultimately the film is for a very specific type of person: the Young fan. Don’t expect too much older material, don’t expect the best direction, and don’t expect any story of any kind, other than the ones spun by Young in each of his songs. The film is not a journey at all, but at least the music is.

[star v=1]

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.

  • Bryan Murray

    I remember Neil when I was growing up in Toronto … Wish this was better than it is

  • Shari Ballon

    I like Neil Young & remember growing up with his music.. Not really a look at his life.. lots of music though.