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Neil Young Trunk Show
Time Out New York Project: Issue #755, March 18–24, 2010
Dir. Jonathan Demme. 2009. N/R. 82mins. Documentary.
Jonathan Demme went in to film Neil Young’s two 2007 shows at Pennsylvania’s Tower Theater without a concrete plan of action, and it shows. But then, this is not the humbly reserved Young of the director’s previous, elegiac concert chronicle, Heart of Gold, and the onstage clutter (a corralling circle of guitars; a broken-down marquee; paint-splattered knickknacks) gives the game away. This is Young in his playroom, grabbing his toys at random while indulging his every antimelodic whim, and Demme’s off-the-cuff approach makes for the perfect aesthetic complement. In the process, the filmmaker has given us another consummate concert film that is easily the equal of Heart and his classic Talking Heads feature, Stop Making Sense.
There’s a sense of synapse-sparking whiplash to the proceedings, especially in the discordant way the numbers — electric and acoustic, old tracks (“Cinnamon Girl”) and new (“The Believer”) — are cut together. Trunk Show gives you the profound impression of wandering within an unhinged psyche, most notably during the band’s 20-minute thrash through “No Hidden Path,” from Chrome Dreams II. Young seesaws maniacally around the stage, the music surging and regressing with exhilarating unpredictability, the end seemingly never in sight. It’s an unholy tantrum that Demme treats, quite rightly, like a miracle.—Keith Uhlich