Film Intro


documentary by Jonathan Demme

US, 2009


Dryden Theatre

George Eastman House

Rochester, NY

May 20, 2010

“It’s better to burn out than to fade away”, Neil Young sang in 1979, words Kurt Cobain infamously included in his suicide note in 1994.

As to be witnessed in this film, Young is neither burnt out nor fading away. In his quest to continually re-invent himself in different characters and after more than 40 albums, the Canadian singer/songwriter is equal only to the monumental and ever-changing Bob Dylan.

Filmed over two nights at Philadelphia’s Tower Theatre in 2007, Trunk Show shows Young at his most raw and experimental. In terms of stage design, the concert also alludes to the tinkerer in Young. A model train fan for most of his life, he is currently engaged in a quest to build a hybrid car. Young has been throughout his career what a Canadian journalist aptly called “Mr. Multiple Personality.”

In 2006. Demme filmed a Young concert at the Ryman auditorium in Nashville and that earlier film shows a sedate, meditative Neil Young who is light years away from Young’s rock’n roll persona of the Trunk Show. Demme and Young purportedly agreed on a trilogy and it will be interesting to see where the third installment will lead them. In Jonathan Demme Young has found a portraitist who is up to the task of capturing the mercurial performer. In 1984 Demme’s concert film Stop Making Sense turned a Talking Heads show into a perfect cinematic spectacle. To the Young shows, Demme ostensibly showed up to the concerts with a large and camera crew but without a pre-formulated plan. In this he mimics the approach Young has to his own music. Young describes, in an interview with Charlie Rose, how he has to follow the call of his muse when it happens, leaving whatever he is involved in at the time to write the song that is flowing through him. “Music is my boss,” he said to Rose. Demme, who won an academy award in 1991 for Silence of the Lambs, returned with Rachel is Getting Married in 2008 to the low-budget roots of his early career when he was working under legendary B-movie producer Roger Corman. Demme’s willingness to take on unconventional projects seems to make him a kindred spirit to Young’s sometimes almost ruthless willingness to follow artistic whims.

And of course, Neil Young has always been in love with film and has done his share of directing, often under the name of his alter ego Bernard Shakey, from Journey Through The Past to Greendale. As an artist, Young has cultivated a determined unpredictability. As he said to Charlie Rose:” The single thing that resonates with me is the next thing. Whatever it is.”


Johannes Bockwoldt