Jonathan Demme’s last concert documentary with Neil Young, “Heart of Gold,” was special; “Journeys” isn’t. But it’s certainly a pleasant, engaging piece.
The film is basically a record of the singer’s concert at Massey Hall in Toronto in May, 2011. Demme, cinematographer Declan Quinn and editor Glenn Allen capture the event (in which new material alternates with old, each song dated and identified) with visual dexterity—including some nifty backstage footage before Young returns for his encore, as well as archival material added to “Ohio,” the song written to commemorate the Kent State killings in 1970. And the work of the sound team is equally superb.
Demme also adds some amusing biographical recollections from Young and his brother Bob during their drive to Toronto—in separate cars, with Bob leading the way—as they pass through their hometown of Omemee, with Neil pointing out memorable landmarks, including the empty field where their family home once stood. These sections don’t have the potency of the personal details of “Heart of Gold,” filmed when Young had been diagnosed with—and treated for—a brain aneurysm, a fact that gave his words a near-valedictory feel. But they certainly show his down-to-earth quality (apparently also in his stage attire, though not always in his casual acceptance of the audience applause).
“Heart of Gold” was a great concert film, and “Journeys” doesn’t match it. But on its own it’s a highly enjoyable ninety minutes of music and droll talk.