Jonathan Demme Discusses ‘Journeys’ & The Magic Of Neil Young

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by Jeff Otto
June 26, 2012 9:56 AM
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Throughout most of his career, Jonathan Demme has been effortlessly bouncing between narrative and documentary filmmaking, the latter of which often revolves around music, starting with 1984’s groundbreaking concert film for Talking Heads, “Stop Making Sense.” Combining his filmmaking talents with his love for music, Demme sought not just to document concerts on film, but to create a cinematic experience around the music.

“I arrived at a couple of things that have been boiler plate for me,” Demme tells The Playlist. “I don’t think we want to see the audience. I don’t think we want to be reminded that this film was performed for anyone other than us. I like finding a great shot and then just staying with it for a long time, not trying to pump things up with some kind of artificial energy by cutting. What interested me was, how can we make this concert film for a moviegoing audience as much as possible? We’re not interested in a record of a concert. We’re interested in a cinematic experience for the moviegoer.”

Over the years and in between critically-acclaimed narrative work like “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia,” Demme has worked with bands such as New Order, The Pretenders, Bruce Springsteen and, most recently, Neil Young.

A longtime Young fan, Demme found a creative kinship with the legendary rocker when the two worked together on the 2006 concert documentary “Neil Young: Heart of Gold.” Three years later they re-teamed for 2009’s “Neil Young Trunk Show.” In their latest collaboration, “Neil Young Journeys,” Demme traveled with Young in his 1956 Crown Victoria from the musician’s hometown of Omemee, Ontario to Toronto’s iconic Massey Hall for the final two nights of Young’s solo world tour. “Journeys” intersperses footage from the concert with a road trip tour led by Young through his humble beginnings.

Speaking about “Journeys,” Demme was extremely enthusiastic. His passion for the material and the enjoyment he felt making the film come through in every word he speaks about the experience. Here are some highlights from our interview.

The Passionate Performances of Neil Young
“Journeys” presents a very intimate look at the music of Neil Young. Perhaps the most impressive part is how seamlessly Young transitions from newer material to longtime classics, his passion for songs played thousands of times indecipherable from songs being performed live for the first time on this tour. “He’s a total immersion artist, so he becomes the song,” says Demme. “That’s part of his magic. He’s not performing these songs, he’s living them. What you see is the music from Neil’s last tour. We felt it would really make a phenomenal movie. This show was too rich and cinematic to not film.”

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