You know, the world’s not all bad when a film like this can get made ?” can get out there and be seen by people. It’s like passing beauty around in a tin cup.
“Neil Young: Heart of Gold,” directed by Jonathan Demme and starring the music legend himself, is hands down some of the most beautiful and gorgeous filmmaking to grace the screen in years. There are close-ups that make the eyes of the viewer feel as if they are watching pure, unfiltered art unfold like a well-preserved tapestry. There are tracking shots and slow pans that literally take the breath away. There is an honesty to the camera angles, an unobtrusiveness that is so refreshing, that one wishes that Mr. Demme was required to give a film class to every aspiring filmmaker.
“Heart of Gold” quite simply is a film that they don’t make any more. In fact, it’s a wonder that they did.
Documenting Neil Young’s live public premiere of Prairie Wind (the artist’s recent Grammy nominated LP), Demme shoots Neil and his elaborate backing band onstage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. Setting up the picture with a cab ride interview with Young and short Q & A pieces with Young’s friends and bandmates, Demme presents the affair to the viewer as if one is about to attend a play at a non-profit workshop. There is no flair, no drama. Young seems comfortable, his companions the same. And then, when the concert is ready to begin, the storied curtain rolls back and Neil Young, a musician who has seen and felt it all, casually begins to sing, to tell tales.
There are no fireworks. No “Hello Cleveland!” call-outs. And there’s no sex, action or blood.
It’s just Neil and some of the best musicians in the land, feeling their way through Prairie Wind (in its entirety) and a second set’s worth of tracks from Young’s astounding back catalog.
Watching the film is like watching two hours of history – two hours that needed to be documented, that needed to be saved and recorded – roll along in super slow motion. And that’s not a bad thing. Moreover, it’s startling. It’s pure. The event happened, it was shot, and now it’s done. Much in the same way that Young’s musical career has transpired, a moment was captured and now that moment is preserved.
Long live Neil Young.
Warning: if you only like to look at “young people” (i.e. bright, sparkly California kids) on the silver screen, or you don’t like Neil Young, then this film isn’t for you – at all. Everyone in the picture is kind of getting up there in years and the entire movie features Mr. Young. That said, if you don’t mind wrinkles, wisdom and some damn fine songwriting, cough up the six dollars and learn something about real music from a master of the art.