A2P Cinema 100 Films of the Aughts
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NEIL YOUNG: HEART OF GOLD
2006 - Jonathan Demme - United States
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Neil Young: Heart of Gold is a special film. Like he did with the wonderful 1984 film Stop Making Sense as well as the 1998 film Storefront Hitchcock, Jonathan Demme transcends the genre of "concert films" to become something emotionally profound and beautiful. This is above all a performance film and it's a memorable experience. Demme structures the film in the same way he did with his previous performance films, focusing on simplistic techniques and almost solely on the stage. After some brief opening comments from Neil Young and the band, Demme dollies in and just lets the performance take over, and the result is magical and even emotionally personal. Making the film even more impacting is the story within, as we see Neil Young performing his latest album (Prairie Wind - which he recorded just weeks before a brain aneurysm operation) to an audience for the first time, in his dream location (Nashville's Ryman Auditorium). The passion of the music and a reflection of his life become evident through Young's performance and lyrics, all wonderfully captured through Demme's intimate camera. Young also sings some of his older favorites, many of which equally reflect on his life and aging (while now being performed by a much older man). The first ten songs are all from the Prairie Wind release and then the film finishes with ten more of his older songs, closing with the entire band performing 'One of These Days' (the film then perfectly ends with Young singing 'The Old Laughing Lady' to an empty audience over the credits). Neil Young: Heart of Gold was shot over two nights of performances, but Demme limits the techniques and cuts to keep the film more involving. This is also captured through the masterful use of lighting and background that change within the mood of the songs. Everything about this film just works. Young's music is so personal, and his (as well as his group) performance is so passionate that this becomes such a beautiful emotional journey of music and imagery on film. Demme has mastered the art of this filmmaking and the film rates among his greatest achievements.
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