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Monday, May 01, 2017

In Memory of Jonathan Demme: 1944 - 2017

Last week, we learned that Film Director Jonathan Demme had passed away at age 73.

Our obituary here on TW examined the long and highly productive relationship of Jonathan Demme and Neil Young over the years. In addition, we looked at why Jonathan Demme Filmed Neil Young Concert at Tower Theatre, Philadelphia.

So here's another look at the concert film Trunk Show and the Boston screening with Director Jonathan Demme and Robyn Hitchcock in March, 2010. From The Reelife Blog: My Cinematic Heros at the Coolidge Corner Theater, a video summarizing a remarkable night at the Coolidge Corner Theater (Brookline, MA, USA) that include Jonathon Demme, Robyn Hitchcock, & Declan Quinn. (Thanks to Tom Adams at The Reelife Blog!)


On March 4, 2010, a special screening of Trunk Show was held in Boston with Director Jonathan Demme and included a live musical performance Robyn Hitchcock. From The Boston Globe: Hitchcock is Demme’s leading man By Mark Shanahan & Meredith Goldstein:
"Why did Robyn Hitchcock perform at this week’s screening at the Coolidge of Jonathan Demme’s documentary about Neil Young? It’s not clear, even to Hitchcock (above right, with Demme), but what difference does it make? “To a halibut in the late 20th century, there’s no difference between me and Neil Young - or Jim Morrison, for that matter,’’ said Hitchcock. (In fact, the British singer is a buddy of Demme’s, and has been in three of his movies, including the documentary “Storefront Hitchcock.’’) The screening was part of a two-day celebration of Demme, who’s the recipient of this year’s Coolidge Award. The audience was enthusiastic about the film, but some people griped that lights inside the cinema were not turned off, which spoiled the experience."
From a review comment by Keith B.:
Last night I saw Jonathan Demme's new movie on Neil -- Neil Young Trunk Show. I went from Hartford to Boston to see it. I cannot wait for everyone to see it. It will knock your socks off. Absolutely amazing. A bookend to Prairie Wind, but an opposite, not a matching one. It is raw and visceral and full of the power (I don't know what other word to use) of N.Y.'s music.

Power and soulfulness.

His voice is in great shape. His "reading," his inflections and changes in phrasing are masterful. His guitar playing is unworldly. He's totally at home and in the groove and at the peak of his powers. And the concert shows the range of his emotion and vision. There is so much there that most people just grab bits of it. I'm a huge fan and I came away thinking, "Is it possible I have underestimated this man?"

The genius of Demme is that he puts you right in Young's world. If someone says, "why do you love Neil Young?" you can just hand them this DVD. They will either watch with mouth agape and join us or be totally befuddled.

Last but not least: The SOUND quality is 4 stars. You hear the best versions of those songs you will ever hear, unless you were at the concert. I heard substantially the same concert in Boston a few days later in 2007 and I felt I was taken back to that place .

Magic, magic music making. This film is a gift from above.

--Keith C. Burris

From interview with Director Demme in The Phoenix - Outside The Frame by Peter Keough:
PK: What's the deal with Neil Young now? You are making a trilogy?

JD: I would obviously love to do a third film with him and Neil likes the idea. We just need to figure out what that would be. I just found out that 'Neil Young: Heart of Gold' has done very well, at the box office. It has done very well, financially, around the world since it was released. It has made me kind of hopeful that our new film, 'Neil Young: Trunk Show,' may attract a similar audience.

PK: That's coming out here on March 1. They are going to show it during your gala.

JD: Yes, and this will be the first showing ever of the final color corrected, tweaked sound track version so it ought to be quite a show.

PK: Can you sum up in a couple of sentences what it is about Neil Young that makes you want to make 3 movies about him?

JD: Neil Young's music became a big part of my soul when I first started hearing it as an extremely young man back in the 60's. I think he is a great artist, a great great great great great artist. I just adore his music and it's been so exciting to work with him these times, to get to know him and see how he conducts himself and listen to the way he thinks. Neil is of course, musically, a giant, and Neil is also an exceptionally cinematic guy. I like the films he has made very much. I particularly love 'Greendale.' He is an exciting person to collaborate with."

Trunk Show's Mission: "To blow your eardrums out"


After Greg Kot's rave review of 'Neil Young Trunk Show: Scenes from a Concert', we thought we'd be hard pressed to find a critic who could top describing the indescribable.

But here's another review to whet your appetite over next 24 hours.

From Reverse Shot by Andrew Chan:
Trunk Show allows us an intense focus on an aging man throwing his entire body into the music, at times seemingly surprised by the passion and sheer sadness of the sound he’s making.

There are, indeed, few sounds in popular music more heartbreaking than a Neil Young vocal.

Sometimes a sharp and atonal bleat, sometimes hanging nervously in the back of his mouth, Young’s voice is so instantly memorable it needs no words and no narrative to flesh it out. Demme trusts in this and is clearly, appropriately, in awe of it, but he also isn’t interested in presenting us the same permanently plaintive Young. In an interview, he has even advised: “If you’re not a Neil Young fan, don’t waste your time . . . if you don’t love electric guitar, don’t go.”

Accentuating the murkiness and loudness of the rocker’s new material is a stage lit by dim, sickly yellow and purple spotlights, substituting for the comfort of Heart of Gold’s ochre and umber. Gone are the backdrops depicting hearth and home; here, a few grotesque props remind us of the set design for the grungy Young-directed concert film Rust Never Sleeps. As if standing in defiance of those who accused Heart of Gold of pimping Young as some Starbucks-friendly folkster (or those who remain suspicious of an artist who briefly cultivated a soft-rock following in the Seventies), Trunk Show eventually announces its mission to blow your eardrums out.


The meat of the film is not the bravely shy singer but the merciless guitarist, and “No Hidden Path,” a monstrous 20-minute jam that brings the first half to its climax, serves as a kind of litmus test. Taken from his latest studio album, Chrome Dreams II, the song starts out with images of moon and mist that would have fit in the lyrics of “Harvest Moon,” before launching into the type of vague spiritual pronouncements that have recently muddied Young’s once-vivid songwriting.

Once the guitar takes over, though, there’s no turning back. A cacophony of escalating moans, yelps, and screeches, the performance is likely to try the patience of all but the truest devotees. But by the end, the uninitiated may feel they’ve undergone something like a religious conversion—especially when Young lets our bleeding ears rest once again on some of those impossibly delicate ballads. Even the most brutal of art-house provocateurs would have a hard time cinematically sustaining such an outburst of anguish and foreboding, while steering us so swiftly back to safety and solace.


What emerges is the most coherent and generous portrait of this artist yet captured on film, and probably the most remarkable melding of his soft and hard sides since the 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps.
When he’s stalking across the stage in a rocked-out stupor, wisps of hair dangling in his face, it’s the force of his commitment that moves you. Where Heart of Gold showed us a man ready to make peace with the dying of the light, Trunk Show gives us all the rage Young has left in him.
Also, see Jonathan Demme Interview on Neil Young Trunk Show Film.

Also, see Trailer for Neil Young Trunk Show Movie.

More on the Trunk Show concerts in Philadelphia.

jonathan-demme.jpg torontofilmfestgrin090603-crop.jpg
Jonathan Demme and Neil Young

More on Jonathan Demme and Neil Young:

- Young and Demme Discuss Trunk Show Movie

- Unscripted Interview: Demme & Young

- Director Jonathan Demme on "Prairie Wind"/Heart of Gold film

- "Heart of Gold" Premieres at Sundance Film Festival

- The Complex Sessions: Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Directed by Jonathan Demme

Photo by Larry Cragg

Labels: , ,


At 5/01/2017 06:44:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

In a comment on original thread @

Demme Q+A

No hard questions at the Q+A re the DVD/BR release, although I'm personally convinced we should see it around Christmas '10...

The editing questions he fielded (with the editor) were telling though - a paraphrased summary:

-this final version is 80min and is shorter than any previous longer version

-conscience to 'cut out' audience shots - felt most concert movies dwell on audience too much when cameras should center on performers

- alternates between acoustic and electric songs throughout

- built edit around No Hidden path (centerpiece)

- Neil wanted no direct involve with Trunk as a movie, unlike his direct hands on with Heart of Gold

-Trunk used 8+/- camera people who were tasked to complete for the best shots, not as orchestrated as HOG fro shots

The cuts actions mentioned during questions made me think that some other gems with make the extras - ie Winterlong...

Pretty engaging for a direct song-per-song movie...80 min felt just right and it looks really great...

Some of the handheld stuff from HOG makes more sense to me know...

Have to believe Neil-Demme have to same love of raw/refined when it comes to music and film

At 5/01/2017 08:12:00 PM, Blogger Joel_Grant said...

Has Neil issued a statement about Demme's death?

At 5/02/2017 06:21:00 AM, Blogger Shakey said...

With Neil's recent illness, I'm surprised Thrasher hasn't covered the fact that Neil joined Willie Nelson on stage at Stagecoach a couple days ago and seemed to be fine while playing harmonica

At 5/02/2017 04:09:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Joel - not that we've heard thus far.

@ Shakey - good news! thanks. where was this? any links, photos, etc?

At 5/03/2017 05:37:00 AM, Blogger Shakey said...

@Thrasher, I see that you've found links obviously. I usually do Google and twitter searches almost daily for Neil news and came across it on both. Great to see Neil in public and looking well. Long may he run


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