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DVD Review: Neil Young Journeys

October 16, 2012

Neil Young Journeys – A Sony Pictures Classics’ Release

DVD Release Date: October 16th, 2012

Rated PG for mature themes and mild language

Running time: 87 minutes

Jonathan Demme (dir.)

Neil Young (music)

Neil Young as Himself

Our reviews below:


Neil Young Journeys DVD Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

Directed by Jonathan Demme, Neil Young Journeys follows the iconic Canadian as he drives from his small hometown of Omemee, Ontario to Massey Hall in downtown Toronto.  More concert film than documentary, we are treated to footage of the legendary singer performing recent songs like “Love and War” as well as classics such as “Ohio” and “Down By The River.”

Because the focus is on the music, we are able to concentrate on the spirituality and deeper meaning behind the lyrics.  The third collaboration between Neil Young and Jonathan Demme, the camerawork and tight close ups often look surprisingly amateur, sometimes to the point of distraction.  But as a big fan of the title singer, Neil Young Journeys is worth a look for the excellent musical numbers and brief insight that it gives into the early life of the Canadian legend.

The DVD includes a “behind the scenes” featurette as well as two conversations with Neil Young and Jonathan Demme.


Neil Young Journeys DVD Review By Erin V.  

**1/2 (out of 4)

Directed by Jonathan Demme, Neil Young Journeys is his third concert style film about Neil Young, and is worth seeing for the music.

From the Oscar-winning director, I was sort of surprised to see the way a lot of the concert footage was filmed – often shaky, close-up, and admittedly for lack of a better word, amateurish.  The film is mostly concert footage, with a few brief segments of interviews with Neil Young, filmed while he is traveling to Toronto’s Massey Hall (hence the ‘journey’).  His soundbites are interesting, and fit well between the songs.  The songs are played in full and the music makes for the best parts of the film though, in particular the editing over the song “Ohio,” which is a very powerful segment.

Pretty much what I’d say, is if you like Neil Young’s music – and his stuff is amazing – this film is worth putting on.  For the filmmaking itself, for the most part it didn’t stand out for me.  If I put it on again, it would be more to listen than to actually watch the camera work.  Still, as I said, there are a few really well put together sections, so it’s still worth checking out for fans of the music.


Neil Young Journeys DVD Review By Nicole

*** (out of 4)

Neil Young Journeys celebrates the music of one of Canada’s greatest artists.  It is mainly a concert film, with nearly seventy minutes of Neil Young performing a mix of classic and newer songs that he has written.  The film also takes Neil and his brother Bob on a short road trip from Omemee, Ontario in Kawartha Lakes (near Peterborough), to Ceasarea and Pickering North in Durham and finally to Toronto’s Massey Hall where the concert takes place.  On the drive, (which seems long in the film, but probably took under two hours), Neil and Bob Young recall their childhood.  From their conversations, one can really see how societal attitudes toward nature has changed in the past sixty years.  This is evident in Neil Young’s songs.

The songs are really powerful, with the best scene intersplicing historical news footage of the 1970 Kent State University shootings, (nothing graphic is shown), with a live performance of “Ohio.”  The rest of the documentary often has poor camerawork, but hearing Neil Young perform his hauntingly beautiful songs live makes up for this.  I would recommend Journeys to all Neil Young fans.


Neil Young Journeys DVD Review By Maureen

*** (out of 4)

The third in a series by director Jonathan Demme, Neil Young Journeys is more concert film than documentary.  Opening in his small hometown of Omemee, Ontario Neil Young chats as he drives to his concert at Toronto’s Massey Hall in May 2010.  The film shows intimate close ups of Neil Young singing some of his better known songs and some of his newer ones.

For those of us who missed the concert, Neil Young Journeys is an enjoyable chance to see and hear this Canadian rock legend do what he does best, perform memorable songs.  Journeys is a nice addition to any Neil Young fan’s collection.


Neil Young Journeys DVD Review By Tony

*** (out of 4)

Neil Young Journeys is the latest collaboration between Young and filmmaker Jonathan Demme. Though generally identified with Winnipeg where he came of age, and having lived most of his adult life on a California ranch, Young spent his early years in the “north Ontario” mill town of Omemee and later the Toronto suburb of Pickering. The film intersperses a road trip in a 1956 Ford to these towns guided by his brother Bob with a solo concert at Toronto’s historic Massey Hall, featuring songs from the recent album Le Noise along with earlier material.

Though little remains physically of his bucolic childhood homes, Young’s small town roots are reflected in the stories he tells with considerable charm as he drives down the road. The concert footage featuring Young accompanying himself by turns on several vintage guitars, an upright piano and a small pipe organ offers up an excellent selection of material with fine sound.

Unfortunately, the visuals were often distracting. For example, the road trip was mainly viewed from the passenger seat looking past Young at the wheel through the driver’s side window. The concert footage was quite dark and though musicians will appreciate being able to watch his guitar and keyboard work, the camera at times was literally in Young’s face, so much so that his head would move in and out of the shot, filling the screen at times with his mouth or other grizzled features. The extreme closeups only made sense to me during the song relating various attempts at self medication through the years, the camera lens fogged up by his breath presumably a metaphor for his state of mind at the time.

Despite its flaws, Neil Young Journeys is a fine addition to any fan’s collection that occasional listeners like myself will also enjoy.


Consensus: Although the shaky camerawork is sometimes distracting, Jonathan Demme’s concert documentary Neil Young Journeys is worth seeing for the excellent musical performances, especially for fans of the iconic Canadian singer.  *** (Out of 4)

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