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With this film, Jonathan Demme now has a trilogy of Neil Young music documentaries to his credit and, as rapturous as it is for the many fans of the musician, it’s starting to sound a bit like a broken record. A very good record, mind you, but Neil Young Journeys is one that will be best appreciated by the connoisseurs. For this film, Demme joins Young in the musician’s big ol’ Crown Vic for a leisurely drive from Omemee, Ontario – the town of Young’s birth – to historic Massey Hall in Toronto, Canada, for a concert Young is to play in conclusion of his 2011 tour. Demme also captures some of the performance. Along the way Young talks of his upbringing and family, and is joined by his brother for some recollections. The material adds depth and context to the thoughts and images in some of Young’s songs, yet there is little that recontextualizes or bursts wide our previous understanding.
The film is, perhaps, revelatory for us Americans, who tend to think of Neil Young as one of those artists who arose from the ranks of the California counterculture scene of the 1960s with the bands Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. That’s not untrue, but Young’s original music roots reside in Canada, a fact that was brought home to me when I once saw him perform in Toronto for an audience of his devoted countrymen. Neil Young Journeys includes a couple of previously unreleased tunes among the old favorites, and the comfortable familiarity of Young and Demme lends each project a serendipitous glow. These two world-renowned and individualistic artists from the worlds of music and film clearly bask in each other’s company. We, the audience, would be fools to respond otherwise.