Heart of Gold Film Reviews
NEIL YOUNG: HEART OF GOLD film website
Caution. Metaphor alert ahead.
The movie reviews for "Neil Young: Heart of Gold" have been rolling in at steady clip and are virtually unanimous in singing the film's praises. And unanimous in using mining phrases like "glittering gold" and "strikes gold".
Opening in limited release this weekend in New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto, the film is being reviewed in hundreds of media publications.
Here's a sample of some of the reviews for the Jonathan Demme film of last year's Nashville Ryman concerts.
From New York Metro review "Young at Heart: Jonathan Demme syncs up perfectly with Neil Young" by David Edelstein:
"Among the achievements of Neil Young: Heart of Gold is that it triumphs over its exalted press notes, which describe it as "a groundbreaking union of film and music ministered by Jonathan Demme and Neil Young." Ministered, huh? I've always
preferred my country-rock with a grain of sulphur, but the Reverend Demme's track record with concert films (chiefly that celebration of transcendental alienation Stop Making Sense) is as good as anyone's, and the Reverend Young, bouncing back from a brain aneurysm, has certainly earned the right to take the long view. And by the time the director gets to Young and his musical family standing around tuning their instruments - it's right before an August 2005 Nashville performance of Young's latest album, Prairie Wind, at one of the former sites of the Grand Ole Opry - you get an inkling of the movie's fluid grace."
From MTV.com review "'Neil Young: Heart Of Gold': The Magic Of Music Made Visible" by Kurt Loder:
"'Heart of Gold' isn't quite like any other concert movie. There are no frantic edits, no showy montages, no swooping pans across a cheering audience. (In fact, the audience isn't even shown.) The picture was shot entirely with long-range lenses, which means there were no cameramen scurrying around the stage to distract the musicians. The performances move forward in long, serene takes, and the result is a film that focuses completely on the playing and singing. The musicians' empathic interaction is revelatory."
From The New Yorker review by DAVID DENBY:
"Demme keeps the cameras right in front of the performers, and he avoids the stale rock-concert ecstasy of swooping and swivelling and shooting into the lights. Nothing in this movie is aggressively sold; nothing in it is intended to change your life. The attitude is "Take it or leave it -- this is what Neil Young is."
Ignoring the audience in the hall, Demme concentrates on the music and the lyrics and the relations between Young and members of the band -- sometimes just a nod, a smile, a raised eyebrow. Since the sound is unusually clear as well as full, one can actually hear the lyrics in all their mournful near poetry. One might call "Neil Young: Heart of Gold" soothing, even becalmed, but mellowness and ripeness, when they exist at this high level of craft, should have their season, too."
CBC.ca review "Forever Young - Jonathan Demme captures Neil Young at his best in Heart of Gold" by Stephen Cole:
"Elegantly lit and handsomely staged in the neo-classical country style Young intended — no haystacks or sequins! — this concert film has the burnished glow of a Vincente Minnelli MGM Technicolor musical from the 1950s. And no one seems happier to be transported back in time than Young, decked out in a pewter swallowtail coat and wide-brimmed gaucho hat, as he sidles up to prim and pretty cowgirl Emmylou Harris for an old-fashioned duet."
Neil Young and Emmylou Harris
Guess who has 11 Grammy Awards and which one has zero?
From New York Times review "A Weathered Rocker but Still Unbowed" By MANOHLA DARGIS:
"In 'Neil Young: Heart of Gold,' the colors shift from ocher to shades of blue as the mood shifts from plaintive to rueful. Every so often a scrim slides awkwardly into place behind the musicians and a painted train cutting across a prairie is replaced with an interior scene of a skinny cat, a fat chair and a fireplace. The show's simplicity and homespun vibe serve Mr. Young's emotionally tremulous songs, both the new and the old, wonderfully well. At one point, during one of his occasional verbal rambles, he says half-jokingly, half-defensively that he's got some love songs left in him. This film, which is at once a valentine from one artist to another and a valentine from a musician to his audience, is surely proof that he does."
From The Washington Post "Neil Young film becomes American family affair" by Bob Tourtellotte:
"Neil Young, iconoclastic troubadour for decades of counter-culture in the United States, has made the ultimate American family film.
It seems ironic, but it is true, says Jonathan Demme, who directed "Neil Young: Heart of Gold," which is now playing in U.S. theaters.
The term "family film" is associated with Disney and Pixar and huggable stuffed toys. Young's song "Needle and the Damage Done" speaks to heroin addiction, and he will forever be linked to 1960s and 1970s anti-war protests with songs like "Ohio" from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. And since then, the 60-year-old has only grown in stature to become a standard bearer for angst-ridden teen rockers.
Yet, in "Heart of Gold," the Canadian-born Young and Demme have created what they term a "dream concert" of songs from his recent "Prairie Wind" album and older "Harvest" and "Harvest Moon" records that conjure spirits of country-and-western music's past and harken to a simple life in the North American heartland.
"It puts me in touch with some deeply felt, old-fashioned, powerful ideas about what America stands for, what the family stands for, what friends stand for," Demme told Reuters in a joint interview with Young. "There's a complete absence of cynicism. I think it makes you feel good to be human."
From Newsday.com review "Being Neil Young: A Survivor's Song" BY JAN STUART:
"You don't have to be a Neil Young fan or contemporary to be deeply moved by the prescience of these songs or the affirming presence of his back-up singer wife, Pegi, his friend Emmylou Harris (who provides memorable assist on "This Old Guitar") and a graying fraternity of studio-musician pals from the year one. To see and hear "Neil Young: Heart of Gold" is like soaking in a warm tub filled to the brim with luxuriant, life-restoring music."
From LA Daily News "Forever Neil Young" by Fred Shuster:
"It was a very personal performance, like my club performances before I became well-known, before people developed preconceptions of who I am," Young, 60, said from his home near San Francisco. "The idea was based on the old folk tradition where you'd talk a little about a new song before you'd play it. Very much in the Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan tradition - although Bob never talked that much - in the fact we were doing all new songs for an audience that had never heard them before. This was a crowd who knew what to expect - it wasn't a crowd yelling for 'Heart of Gold.' "
From Village Voice review "Long May He Run: At 60, a not-so-young Neil confronts death with elegiac hymns to family, friendship, and love" by Tom Charity:
"Plaintive and valedictory, Prairie Wind unfolds as a testament: Almost all the songs default to the first-person singular, and judging by Young's simple, straightforward intros, he means them to be understood as such. "Here for You" is dedicated to a daughter who has left home. "Far From Home" is about the right resting place, and "This Old Guitar" is a tribute to the instrument he "inherited" from Hank Williams and will pass on in turn one of these days. Mortality and remembrance are abiding themes; abiding is another."
From Rolling Stone review by Peter Travers:
"The first half consists of songs from Prairie Wind, the album Young recorded last year after a brain aneurysm threatened to call him out before he hit sixty.
Screw that. With a voice that still stands up to the country-rock throb he coaxes out of his guitar, Young lets his new songs of hard and high living on the Canadian plains bleed into the classics he wrote for Harvest and Harvest Moon. Demme is there to catch every note of bruising beauty. You don't just hear it in the music, you see it etched in Young's face. This is more than a movie, it's a privilege."
On The Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum ChuckHD28 posts on a preview screening:
"The whole package draws you in and has you believing that you have the best seat in the house. The shots Demme captures are of intimate moments. Intimate moments between and among the musicians, their music and the audience. Knowing looks, smiles and nods among and between performers. That innate sign language between a leader and his band. Count it out Chad, enter now Keith, all finish. Almost indetectable inflections that the all together ensemble reads in near perfect harmony.
Oh, and since there might be a couple of people here who have some interest in Martin guitars, I suppose I should mention the Martins. Neil's 1941 'bone and his Longworth era D-45 are featured, as well as a new, (as it looked to me) D-28 (rosewood D with a black pickguard), that Pegi Young played for a couple of tunes. Of course, Neil mentioned that the 'bone once belonged to Hank Williams and that this was likely the first performance the Ryman had seen of this guitar since Hank Williams, Sr. last performed there. BTW, also on stage playing guitar was Grant Boatright, the gent responsible for introducing Neil to Tut Taylor and "Hank" back in the early 70's."
From Chromewaves "I've Been A Miner For A Heart Of Gold", Frank blogs:
"There's a real serenity and vulnerability about Neil in these performances, in both the songs and the somewhat surprising openness of the between-song dialogue - it's a real celebration of his life, his family and friends. The first half of the film is all new material, but later on he gets into some classic acoustic material which sounds so good, it might well bring a tear to your eye.
On the visual front, the film is appropriately understated, using slow cuts and tight close-ups on the performers in conjunction with simple but warm stage and costume design to create an intimate, elegiac and down-home atmosphere perfectly suited to the mood and setting of the Grand Ole Opry. Most past tour films featuring Neil have concentrated on trying to capture the chaos of his electrified Crazy Horse material, and justifiably so - the Horse in action is something to behold. But Demme shows that Neil Young the folksinger is just as electrifying on the screen as the ragged rocker, though in a completely different way. This is a very special film, not just for the quality of the music but for capturing a brilliant artist at a very key point in his life and his career. Definitely worth seeing for any Neil fan, and stay for the closing credits - they're mesmerizing."
From Chicago Tribune review "For Young and Demme, `Heart' a dream project" by Mark Caro:
"To make a "Prairie Wind" movie, Young said he and Demme batted around several ideas, including a plan to "film all kinds of things in Canada and find old stock footage and go back to the Indians." But, he added, "we elected to just let the music speak."
"There's so much dream imagery and dream themes throughout so many of the songs," Demme added. "At a certain point, I think we were joking, it was like, `Hey, let's make it a dream concert!' The great part is it's Neil Young's dream. Nothing will go wrong. It'll be the perfect musicians. It'll be the perfect venue.'"
Young said, "Let's make a movie that looks like a dream concert that is something that, if I closed my eyes and thought of the best way I could see to do a concert at that time, that would be it."
So Young lined up his band from "Prairie Wind" -- a collection of veteran rock, country and soul players who have backed him in the past, including keyboardist Spooner Oldham, steel guitarist Ben Keith and the Memphis Horns -- and booked the historic, acoustically pristine Ryman for two August performances. Meanwhile, Young and Demme conceived of the concert in cinematic terms.
Young's ambition to make unified albums meant to be heard (or seen) in their entirety can be interpreted as yet another against-the-grain move by this maverick musician. This is the iPod age, after all, when songs are sold individually and scrambled according to the listener's whims.
But when you watch "Heart of Gold," you have to go on Young's emotional journey as he designed it.
"It forces it to be an album," Young said. "You go to the film, you have no choice.
"You can't shuffle `Heart of Gold.' You can't shuffle that sucker. You can't take it with you -- at this point, anyway." "
From Philadelphia Inquirer review "Making a concert film come alive" by Dan DeLuca (via Largehearted Boy):
"Demme proclaims himself 'perfectly happy' with Heart of Gold.
'In fact, I think I'm more happy with it than anything I've ever done,' he says. 'My whole position was that if Neil Young is actually going to agree to let me film him performing, then I want him to love this movie, and reflect what he cares about... . I didn't want to impose my thing. I wanted to memorialize his thing.'"
More on "Heart of Gold" premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and the Nashville Ryman Concerts, the album "Prairie Wind", and the song "Heart of Gold", which inspired the film's title.
Also, see sidebar on right for feed updates of film reviews and other news on the film Heart of Gold. Also, see Bad News Beat for updates.
Movie trailer link here.
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