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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Jonathan Demme Filmed Neil Young Concert at Tower Theatre, Philadelphia: Here's why |

Jonathan Demme and Neil Young in Park City, Utah
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Best Events
(Click photo to enlarge)

From 2010 interview with Jonathan Demme (by Dan DeLuca) when Neil Young Trunk Show was released, just three years after he shot Neil Young: Heart Of Gold in Nashville. 

So when you finished Heart of Gold, did you know you wanted to make another Neil Young movie?

Well, I knew I wanted to get back in Neil Young’s world. Then when they went out on tour for Chrome Dreams II in 2007, Elliot Roberts invited me to take a look. The show was lit by (“Trunk Show” lighting designer) Peggy Eisenhauer, and it had a particularly interesting visual quality. ... My only reservation was I didn’t want it to be another Heart of Gold. ... With Heart of Gold, Neil and I were like Siamese twins from the get-go. With this one he just said: Do it.

Heart of Gold is so calm, and Trunk Show is wild and unruly. It’s sort of the yin to Heart of Gold’s yang.

Yeah, and we were honoring Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry with Heart of Gold. With this, in my head I was thinking we should really take a punk approach. Get there, shoot it, in your face, try to capture it. And the thing we were trying to honor was the unhinged spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.

You’ve been to Neil’s live shows, right? I finally got to see him live in the 1990s. Isn’t it true that there’s that thing that happens at a Neil Young rock ‘n’ roll show where you don’t want the song to end? You’re like, “Is this going to be the end? No, they’re building it up again. Here we go. ...” I love that.

In Trunk Show you captured one of those monster jams in its entirety. “No Hidden Path” lasts for 23 minutes.

When we filmed “No Hidden Path,” I thought, obviously this is too long to be in a movie. But what if it could be? So in the cutting room, what we wound up doing was justifying our choices by saying, how do we get “No Hidden Path” in there? There’s no rule that you have to be chronological, or acoustic comes first, and electric last. So we kept alternating, and altering the mood. But it had everything to do with justifying this giant epic in the middle.

Why did you shoot it at the Tower?

Neil’s thing was, “I want to play in theaters where there are lots of ghosts.” Not just rock ‘n’ roll, but classical, vaudeville, whatever. ... You’ll see there’s some grainy footage in there, shot from the balcony. Those are ghost views, suggesting the ghosts came out and watched a little bit of the show. Neil conceived of it as a valentine to performers, and performance. I like that and I was moved by it. The Tower was a two-night stand, and Neil thought it was particularly beautiful. So we jumped on the train from New York and came down, set up and shot.

With Philadelphia, Beloved and now this, that makes three in your Philadelphia oeuvre.

That’s right! And one in the 21st century now.

How did the Tower suit you?

It was great. Don’t we love those shrines? That great marquee. I hadn’t even thought of the need for an exterior shot, but as soon as we rolled up I thought, “OK, that’s in.”

You know, I love this movie. It’s a dreadful thing to say, but I have to say it. I love it and I feel like I’m sucked inside the music by the way some of these (camera operators) shot it.

The cameras linger on Young’s face, and his hands. You made a movie about Neil Young’s face.

Does everybody talk about guitar face, or is that just my wife? No one gives guitar face like Neil Young. And piano face! And I love him for that. He doesn’t care what he looks like. Zero ego. This is actually something he said to me: “I don’t have a bad side, because I don’t have a good side.”

You’ve got a lot of cameras working in this movie, but you never fall into that quick-cutting trap.

If you’ve got fantastic musicians playing, don’t you want to watch them? There’s been some amazing stuff done with the quick-cut style. But I just believe that there are people who want a concert experience — and want to trip out on the music.

Is there going to be a third Neil Young movie?

I’m praying there’s going to be a third. It’s not about matched sets. It’s about trilogies, at least in the world of Neil Young. We’ve bandied a couple of ideas about. We’ve done two, we’ve got to do three.

You use a lot of musicians as actors in your films. Robyn Hitchcock in “The Manchurian Candidate,” Tunde Adebimpe (of TV on the Radio) in “Rachel Getting Married.” Why?

If you get up on stage in front of the microphone and you carry people away with your performance, it’s not going to be that hard to talk good, too.

So what’s your answer to the question, aren’t there enough Neil Young movies already?

The stack is way too little. We need more. Absolutely. We need more.

More on Jonathan Demme and Neil Young.

Labels: , ,


At 4/27/2017 11:49:00 AM, Blogger das814 said...

Looking forward to the DVD if it ever becomes unearthed.

At 4/27/2017 02:52:00 PM, Blogger CFH said...

How to see or buy Trunk Show?

At 4/28/2017 01:20:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

Yes, why doesn't the damn motion picture company release these out of print / unreleased films? Lets do it before we get too old! The man has FANS! We want it. Give it to us! Thank you, Jonathan Demme. Rest in peace. Thank you for turning your lens on our hero, for sharing our love and obsession with Neil Young and his creations & art. We share your fascination with his hypnotic, furious / beautiful power. We have enjoyed so much through the years from him, as a songwriter, singer, multi-instrumentalist, truth teller, shape shifter, warrior for Earth, and all-around-good-guy. Long live Neil Young. And may we all meet up again at the great gig in the sky. Alan in Seattle

At 4/28/2017 08:21:00 AM, Blogger Grandmaster T said...

I was lucky enough to have seen Jonathan Demme speak at the Coolidge Theater back in 2010 - It was a bit of an odd occasion and presentation with him and Robyn Hitchcock (because he happened to be in town and he and Demme were friends) and cinematographer Declan Quinn on the stage at the same time talking about and debuting the yet-to-be-released (and still unreleased) Neil Young film "The Trunk Show"... Demme was casual and friendly and very open about his career and how he loved working on this Neil Young film.

What a career and rich life Jonathan Demme had... an inspiration for sure.

Here's a quirky little video I put together to document the event.

At 4/29/2017 10:21:00 AM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

Because Demme was adamant in a trilogy of Neil Young movies Trunk Show should be made available to honor the filmmakers craft. He was a brilliant artist and now that he's gone his intention should be realized with it's release. Rest well Jonathan and may we all meet again someday.

At 4/29/2017 11:39:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with Dan

Can we stArt a petition?

It's a great film

At 5/01/2017 01:18:00 PM, Blogger Soldier Steve said...

A bootleg copy is available recorded to DVD from Canadian cable TV.Its a great recording.I can't burn DVDs but I'm sure if you groveled on the rust list someone would do it for the cost of blanks & postage.

At 5/01/2017 06:54:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ das814 & CFH - everyone is looking forward to the DVD too!

@ Alan - likewise, good question. yes, there seems to be some sort of licensing dispute behind the delayed release, but who really knows?

@ Tom - Thanks so much for dropping by on this. Yes, we remember your film and just re-watched and reposted.

Very sad news on the passing of the great Jonathan Demme. Tom, thanks for making this film and keeping the music and memory alive. Posted to TW today. Promise of the REEL, indeed. So keep it real, & KORITFW!!!

@ Dan - A trilogy box of Demme's Neil films would certainly find a home @ TW.

Keith - Start a petition? Really? Been there, done that. But happy to post here if someone starts one.

When will Trunk Show be released is probably one of the most FAQs here @ TW. But we all know the answer .... someday ....

@ Soldier Steve - right. rusties always have the goods to share ... and that's not all ...

At 5/02/2017 06:08:00 PM, Blogger barrooman said...

went to the tower and the "film" doesnt have enough of it in it!!

At 7/18/2017 10:19:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

@Soldier Steve Does anyone have a copy of the recording from the Canadian cable TV channel? I was at that show and I have been anxious to see it. If you know anyone that might have a copy available, please let me know.


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