Jonathan Demme tackles Neil Young again, this time at a pair of shows in Pennsylvania. The idea behind Neil Young Trunk Show was that NY would take his favorite instruments, place them around himself, and then decide by whim or kismet what to play. Surrounded by a very capable cadre of his favorite musicians, too, he plays guitar, piano and banjo on a handful of his greatest songs. Rarely heard classics like "Ambulance Blues" (from the brilliant On the Beach album), "Sad Movies," and a few others, plus full-band versions of "Cinnamon Girl" and "Like a Hurricane," where Young and cohorts Ralph Molina, Rick "The Bassplayer" Rosas, and Ben Keith do it until they're satisfied. A few of the songs last too long (even by Young's standards), but the cinematography allows you to see various angles of the action without being too obtrusive, and mitigates that gripe. On the other hand, one shot appears to have come from a fan's cellphone—very grainy and from way in the back—and adds the "I was there" brag that anyone who attended would want to claim.
I think Demme did a better job on this than on Heart of Gold (from 2006), though that may be because I prefer the uptempo rock tunes over the soul searching, solo acoustic numbers. This time you get a good mix of both, and at 83 minutes, it doesn't overstay its welcome. Neil Young Trunk Show is playing for one week only, beginning March 19, in select cities (here in Seattle at the Varsity Theater in the U District). A complete list can be found at the official movie website.