JONATHAN DEMME ROCKS THE FESTIVAL WITH NEIL YOUNG JOURNEYS
The programmers of the Los Angeles Film Festival work hard to have a significant music component that will shine a light on the synergy of film and music. One of the highlights of that effort this year was Jonathan Demme’s film, Neil Young Journeys featuring the Canadian music icon.
This film marks the third collaboration between Demme and Young. During the Q&A that followed the screening, Demme noted their relationship had evolved to a point where they trust each other and have come to realize they share a similar artistic aesthetic. Young even has his own production company called Shakey Productions; it is based on his alter ego, Bernard Shakey who has five director credits on IMDB.
The film centers on a Neil Young solo concert performance that took place in the renowned Toronto concert venue, Massey Hall. The venue has an illustrious past including the recording of the legendary Charlie Parker – Dizzy Gillespie concert recorded as Jazz at Massey Hall in May 1953. Young also recorded a live album there which was released in 2007 titled Live at Massey Hall 1971.
The performance captured in the film is unique in that this is Neil Young stripped down to his core, sonic self. The renditions are natural performances full of unprocessed tones and gritty guitar work. Legendary music producer Daniel Lanois produced the original album the concert tour was based on. The same thundering sonic qualities that brought critical acclaim in the music press for the album come through in the film.
The film is presented in a high-resolution sound format that delivers a much richer sound quality than current theatrical delivery systems. A special sound playback system was installed in the theatre for the two nights that Neil Young Journeys played the Festival. As was explained during the Q&A, movie theaters currently receive sound quality at 48 kilohertz. This film was engineered to play back at 96 kilohertz – doubling the sound data. The sonic qualities of the music Young executed on stage made full use of the extra sound detail provided by the high resolution sound format.
Interjected with Young’s performance was a back country cruise through his hometown and the back roads of Ontario ending at Massey Hall. It felt like sitting in the car opposite Neil Young listening to tales from his childhood, along with bittersweet impressions of the landscape that has changed over the years.
This was a risky film to make in that it relies on the musical abilities of one man and how they are presented – only Demme and Young could have pulled this off. In the film, Neil Young is a storyteller using acoustics like a Foley department to illustrate the landscapes he describes in his songs. The result is a “performance film” with a strong emotional impact, and shows just how much the trust factor paid off for Demme and Young.
—by Jim Lichacz for Film Independent
Check out highlights from the Q&A that followed the screening:
June 20th, 2012 • No Comments