Neil Young, Jonathan Demme chat on ‘Journeys’ doc at Slamdance
January 18, 2012 | 12:46pm
Neil Youngand filmmaker Jonathan Demme will hold court Sunday at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where they’ll conduct a master class session about their latest collaborative music documentary, “Neil Young Journeys,” following its U.S. premiere screening Saturday at the festival.
The film follows Young on the trek from his hometown of Omemee, Canada, to Massey Hall in Toronto for the final two shows of his 2011 solo world tour. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer reminisces about childhood friends and talks about how the surroundings have changed over the decades while rolling toward Toronto in a 1956 Ford Crown Victoria.
It’s the third film the two have worked on together, following 2006’s “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” and 2010’s “Neil Young Trunk Show.”
“I have had the high pleasure and honor of sitting down with Neil two times before: [last fall] at the Toronto Fest and a couple of years back at Sundance, when we showed up with ‘Neil Young: Heart of Gold’,” Demme told Pop & Hiss. “Neil is extremely spontaneous and original in his thinking on all things musical and cinematic, so it’s really a blast for me to get to do something like this with him. We’re very, very excited that Slamdance has invited us to have our USA premiere with them this weekend.”
The “Journeys” program will be preceded by the first screening of a 13-minute mini-documentary Demme shot in October of an Occupy Wall Street drum circle gathering.
The 2012 Slamdance Festival, highlighting works from independent filmmakers, runs Friday through Jan. 26. Special events also include a screening Tuesday of “With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story,” about the pioneering comic book artist from directors Will Hess, Nikki Frakes and Terry Dougas. The film screening will be preceeded by a morning master class session with Lee and Hess.
Slamdance Film Festival Sets Jonathan Demme’s Neil Young Doc, Other Special Screenings & Shorts
Image from "Neil Young Journeys"
The Slamdance Film Festival announced a long list of special screenings and short films that will play at its 2012 edition. Included in the mix is Jonathan Demme’s “Neil Young Journeys,” a portrait of the rock star at his 2011 summer solo shows in Toronto. The festival will also screen a never-before-seen TV pilot from Ed Wood as part of their program.
An image from Jonathan Demme’s “Neil Young Journeys.”
I found myself in the middle of Neil childhood heaven while attending the premiere screening of “Neil Young Journeys.” That was definitely the theme of the evening. I felt very attached to everything that was going on. It was all so intimately familiar to me.
The concert footage which was excellent and compelling in its own right, was interspersed with footage from a road trip Neil took with his brother Bob and director Jonathan Demme. While visiting various sites in Omemee and Brock Road (Pickering), Neil reminisces about his childhood. His brother drove the lead car (an old Cadillac) and Neil and Demme followed. I’ve made numerous trips to Omemee over the past 5 years and was given a guided tour of Brock Road this past January. I’m familiar with all of the places and people that Neil mentioned. (Although I didn’t know about Bob guarding Neil’s chicken coop with a rifle after the famous chicken massacre of 1956. I took some notes.)
It was very cool to see Neil driving along Highway 401 West in his classic old car heading into Toronto with Massey Hall as the destination. He meant to take the Yonge Street exit but he got mixed up and took Bayview Avenue instead. Another driver honks at Neil as he maneuvers to quickly join the exit lane. (He also drove alongside a huge transport truck and it was really noisy.) I know that stretch of the highway where he took the wrong exit and it is really confusing at times.
As they approach Massey Hall Neil remarks, “It certainly doesn’t look like it did before. But I can smell it.” (In reference to Massey Hall). The camera then pans over the entire building from top to bottom where the triple red entry doors stand proudly.
When Neil was on-stage he made numerous comments about his childhood. He said that he was “reading a lot about his childhood lately.” He also mentioned that he attended many different schools and that during one particular year he had attended three different ones. (Neil was well acquainted with being the new kid in the class.)
Continuing with the “I Am A Child” theme, one of Neil’s ex-classmates from Grade 4 at an elementary school in Toronto was selected to speak during the Q&A session. Mary Ellen B. introduced herself and Neil’s face immediately lit up. He recognized her name right away. He said that Mary Ellen was his “first girlfriend.” I had interviewed Mary Ellen for “A Shakey Education” and she had called me earlier in the day to let me know that she planned to attend. (We were able to meet face to face — for the first time! — after the screening.)
Neil relayed an amusing story about winning a prize at a game at a community fair. He thought he had won a beautiful piece of jewellery. He had a bit of a crush on Mary Ellen so he decided to present her with a token of his affection. He went to her house but she wasn’t there. He gave the gift to Mary Ellen’s mother with instructions to give it to Mary Ellen. It turned out that the “golden necklace” was really a fancy dog collar choker chain. It was crafted in a chain-link fashion with little golden medallians hanging from it. Mary Ellen didn’t have the heart to tell Neil that his lovely gift ended up on the neck of their pet boxer.
Another classic Neil childhood heaven moment was when a large manila envelope was relayed to Neil from the audience. Neil’s old childhood pal from Omemee, Garfield “Goof” Whitney, wasn’t able to attend the screening but he sent along a memento to give to Neil. When Neil received it he jokingly remarked , “Oh, what does Goof want me to do now.”
During the road trip to Omemee Neil points out where his old friend Goof lives. (I had the opportunity to interview Goof this past April.) He reminisces about how his older friend would delight in taking advantage of his youthful naivete and general gullible nature. Goof told Neil that it was a good idea to eat tar from the road because after you chewed it for a while it would begin to taste like chocolate. Neil believed Goof and tested this out. Neil jokingly remarked that this was the beginning of his close relationship with cars.
Another member of the audience who spoke with Neil during the Q&A session had a photo with him that was taken at Kelvin High School’s 75th Anniversary Reunion in June 1987. Neil attended the event and was in the photo with some others. The reunion was held in conjunction with the Shakin’ All Over 1960s Winnipeg Bands Reunion. The audience member asked Neil if he was aware that Kelvin was celebrating its 100th anniversary next May and if so, did he plan to attend. Neil responded affirmatively.
Sharry (Up in T.O. keepin’ jive alive)
p.s. I’ll add some other highlights from the screening in the next day or two. There’s so much to report. I can’t do it all in one shot.
“NEIL YOUNG JOURNEYS”, this is the tracklist to the new movie by Johnathan Demme. Aired at TIFF Canada, 12 September.
1. Peaceful Valley Boulevard
3. Down by the River
4. Sign of Love
6. Love and War
8. After the Gold Rush
9. I Believe in You
10. My, My, Hey, Hey (Out of the Blue)
11. You Never Call
13. Walk With Me
Also… “Helpless” was played while the end credits were rolling.
thanks to Sharry (Up in T.O. keepin’ jive alive)