Neil Young Journeys: Toronto Review

Neil Young Journeys film still - 2011
Third Young/Demme concert film offers an exceptional performance for fans in the market for yet more.

Director Jonathan Demme's third concert film with the singer showcases an exceptional performance for fans.

Jonathan Demme's third concert film with Neil Young, Neil Young Journeys, is a solo affair for which the singer's in excellent voice and a contemplative mood. Though one doesn't imagine much box office demand so soon after 2006's Neil Young: Heart of Gold and 2009's Trunk Show (particularly given the proportion of new material performed here), fans will relish the intimate performance in whatever form it's made available to them.

Interspersing a concert at Toronto's Massey Hall with a back-roads trip through Omemee, Ontario and other childhood haunts, the director listens as Young meanders down memory lane. Anecdotes about pet chickens and youthful misdemeanors will only prove compelling for the most avid fans, but the genial scenes make a relevant backdrop for the introspective, backward-looking material in the set list.

Stage footage is almost evenly split between songs from 2010's Le Noise and older favorites, highlights of which include a lacerating "Ohio" and piercing "Hey Hey, My My." Young's distinctive voice is almost startlingly clear, the instrumental sound strong and well mixed.

Young performs on a smartly decorated stage, with crinkled backdrops evoking stained glass, a wooden Indian standing beside an organ, and a couple of acoustic pianos to alternate with Young's guitars. There's nothing in the production concept as bold as, say, Demme's Stop Making Sense, though the director shoots two songs with a camera affixed below the microphone -- let's call it the GrizzleCam -- that offers an extreme close-up of Young's whiskers and, during "Hitchhiker," is obscured by a large drop of his spit.

Venue: Toronto International Film Festival
Production Companies: Shakey Pictures/Clinica Estetico
Director: Jonathan Demme
Producers: Jonathan Demme, Elliot Rabinowitz
Executive producers: Marc Benioff, Bernard Shakey
Director of photography: Declan Quinn
Music: Neil Young
Editor: Glenn Allen
Sales: WME
No rating, 86 minutes