After making the best concert film of all time in 1984, you’d think that Jonathan Demme would quit while he’s ahead. But the man who immortalized the Talking Heads’ live show in “Stop Making Sense,” returns to the genre every few years with films like 1998’s “Storefront Hitchcock.” “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” shows that he’s still in love with music and still knows how to visually capture its magic.
With nice backdrops and costumes, Neil Young and his band celebrate the release of Young’s latest album, Prairie Wind, with an all-acoustic collection of new songs and classics. Although (and I fully admit that I am by no means a Neil Young expert) some of the songs are a bit weak, especially lyrically, they are all performed consummately and photographed with great care.
Demme doesn’t follow the concert film clichés of always cutting to the musicians who are showing off at a precise moment. He isn’t afraid to hold on one shot as Young sings, but he also finds fascinating details, like a close-up pan of a pedal steel or out-of-focus horns in the foreground while Young sings. This immaculate filmmaking creates an engaging documentary that makes you forget that you’re missing the energy of a live show because it’s a completely cinematic experience with its own special energy.