Oscar®-winning director Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs) never set out to make a Neil Young trilogy, yet Neil Young Journeys marks the third time the duo have collaborated on a documentary. Neil Young: Heart of Gold chronicled the singer’s two night performance in Nashville, a year after surviving a brain aneurysm, while Neil Young Trunk Show featured a performance stop in Pennsylvania during his ‘Chrome Dreams II’ tour.
What sets Neil Young Journeys apart is the introspective nature of the documentary. In May of 2011, Young, a noted car lover, drove a 1956 Crown Victoria from his childhood home in Omemee, a town in north Ontario (yes, that one), to downtown Toronto’s iconic Massey Hall where he performed the final two nights of his solo world tour.
Riding shotgun, Demme joined Young on the 85-mile drive south through Ontario, cameras rolling, as Young recollects on everything from childhood memories of fishing and raising chickens, to why music is best listened to with two hands on the wheel staring out at the open road. With a career spanning more than 40 years and 34 studio albums, the singer doesn’t lack for experiences to draw upon.
Mixing in stories from the road with beautifully shot concert footage, Neil Young Journeys features performances of all eight tracks from Young’s most recent album, ‘Le Noise,’ along with classics like ‘Hey Hey, My My,’ ‘Down by the River,’ and ‘Ohio,’ as well as previously unreleased songs ‘Leia’ and ‘You Never Call.’ The result is an intimate retrospective on Young’s formative years serving as interludes between the intense performances the singer has built his career on.
Journeys fittingly made its world premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival last September, but Demme was more than happy to be screening the doc for the L.A. Film Fest crowd. ”Festivals seem to attract people who are particularly interested in film. This one I hope is going to have a very happy, healthy long life at the cineplex,” Demme told The Seven Sees at the movie’s premiere. ”But sometimes we make documentaries and we’re just praying that we get into a festival because that will be the one place it gets seen on a big screen.”
Demme elaborates on what audiences can expect in the movie, reveals why he gets such a thrill from shooting documentaries, and he talks about making a franchise of his Neil Young movies with The Seven Sees from the Neil Young Journeys L.A. Film Fest premiere.