Mining musical documentary `Gold'

Review A+

March 10, 2006|By MICHAEL SRAGOW | MICHAEL SRAGOW,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Jonathan Demme's Neil Young: Heart of Gold turns two Young performances at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium on Aug. 18 and 19, 2005, into an intimate epic. Demme, like his star, knows the power and eloquence of plain utterance. But to generate this movie's tsunami of emotion, the director doesn't rely on the yearning, anger and affection that pour out from Young's Prairie Wind album. Shot by shot, choice by choice, he magnifies the feelings and multiplies the meanings of each verse or chord, each glance between performers or faraway look in their eyes. The result is a performance film that conjures a vision of American life as moving, funny and rueful as John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln.

With breathtaking assurance, the director creates a shimmering fantasy setting out of a battered reality and gets Young's rugged, aching sensibility to fill it like a poignant ether. We hear snatches of Young's "It's a Dream" on the sound track ("And it's fading now/Fading away") as Demme glides from slow shots of weathered storefronts in country music's capital to casual encounters with Young and his band as they drive in big American cars to the tabernacle-like Ryman.

Neil Young: Heart of Gold (Paramount Classics) Starring Neil Young. Directed by Jonathan Demme. Rated PG. Time 103 minutes.

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