Jonathan Demme can’t stop making movies about Neil Young.
Three years after releasing Neil Young: Heart of Gold, a concert documentary shot in Nashville, the director of Philadelphia and The Silence of the Lambs is at it again. This time Demme shot a more off-the-cuff movie titled Neil Young Trunk Show, which offers an intimate look at the Toronto-born, Winnipeg-raised rock star playing in a small hall in Pennsylvania.
That’s two films of Young strumming, rocking, talking and singing in that distinctively plaintive voice. Demme, a Young fan since his days with Buffalo Springfield in the 1960s, says the veteran performer deserves every minute of screen time.
“When I see him galumphing across the stage in the middle of No Hidden Path so deep in a trance-state, making sounds that I’ve never heard and I find so thrilling . . . it’s like if Tchaikovsky had been a guitar player. I just think in terms of the word master coming into my head. Look at this grizzled master just burning this stuff down,” Demme says.
Trunk Show gets its U.S. premiere during the 10th annual Woodstock Film Festival, which runs Wednesday through Sunday.
The Woodstock festival typically features some music-oriented movies, a nod to the famous 1969 festival named for the venerable arts colony.
Other music-related documentaries showing at Woodstock this week include When You’re Strange: A Film About the Doors, directed by Tom Dicillio, and Woodstock: Now&Then by Barbara Kopple.
Festival organizers say the music movies will be among nearly 150 films, panels and events during the five days in Woodstock and nearby Rhinebeck, Kingston and Rosendale.
The festival will open with The Messenger, Oren Moverman’s film about army officers who notify relatives that family members have been killed in Iraq. It stars Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton and has been getting good notice at other film festivals, including Berlin, where it made its international debut.
Also showing will be Me and Orson Welles directed by Richard Linklater, who will receive a Maverick Award. Linklater is long an indie darling for such films as Dazed and Confused, Slacker and Fast Food Nation.
Foster and Harrelson will be among actors making appearances at the festival, along with Up in the Air co-star Vera Farmiga. Demme will introduce his new film at the festival and speak on a panel about music and film.
Demme, whose past music films include the Talking Heads documentary Stop Making Sense, said he is trying to capture the different facets of Young in the films.
There’s “gentle Neil,” the acoustic folkie with the melancholy lyrics, and then there’s electric Neil, the hard-weathered 63-year-old rocker who whales on strings like a teen playing Guitar Hero, Demme says.
And Demme’s not done exploring yet. He plans a Neil Young Trilogy.
“I don’t know what the third one will be,” Demme said.
“Maybe it will be outdoors. Maybe be in the woods. Maybe it will be on a farm.”