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Third Neil Young documentary goes deeper into artist’s roots

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Get ready to get closer to Neil Young.

The Details

Neil Young Journeys
Three stars
Directed by Jonathan Demme.
Rated PG. Opens Friday.

Jonathan Demme has now made three Neil Young concert documentaries—the first two were Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006) and Neil Young Trunk Show (2009)—and he seems to be getting a little desperate. The new Neil Young Journeys was shot during Young’s recent tour for his one-man album Le Noise, on which he performed without any accompanying musicians. Searching for new angles to showcase one dude alone onstage, standing or sitting still (at least comedians pace around), Demme sticks cameras inside pianos and even attaches a small one to Young’s mic stand, providing a disconcerting close-up of the singer’s lower jaw.

Fortunately, that’s not too much of a distraction from the music, which is predictably heavy on Le Noise but also reaches back to such chestnuts as “Down by the River” and “Ohio.” Young is in typically ragged-awesome form here; it’s hard to imagine a concert doc with him as its focus that wouldn’t be worthwhile. All the same, there’s a feeling of déjà vu to the enterprise, which doesn’t seem to have any real creative impetus behind it. Interludes of Young taking a tour of his hometown break up the set list, but come across more like random noodling than like a heartfelt investigation of an artist’s roots.

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