Neil Young – Heart of Gold (2006) Special Collector’s Edition

by | Jun 9, 2006 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Neil Young – Heart of Gold (2006) Special Collector’s Edition

Director: Jonathan Demme
Performers: Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ben Keith, Spooner Oldham, Pegi Young
Studio: Shakey Pictures/Paramount 34669
Video: Enhanced for 16:9 widescreen, color
Subtitles: English
Audio: DTS 5.1, DD 5.1, DD 2.0
Extras: 2-disc set = Bonus Song “He Was The King;” Rehearsal Diaries narrated by Jonathan Demme; Neil Young’s 1971 performance on The Johnny Cash Show; Six in-depth featurettes: Fellow Travelers, Cruising With Neil, These Old Guitars, Cruising with the Players, Finishing Touches, Warming Up with Neil and the Jubilee Singers (extras DD stereo only)
Length: 103 minutes (feature)
Rating: *****   

I should state at the beginning that although I greatly enjoyed Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the folk/country songs and performances of Neil Young alone are not at the top of my musical hierarchy.  Notwithstanding that, I found this the most perfectly-filmed presentation of pop or rock I have ever had the pleasure to view! Demme – who did the fine Talking Heads concert film years ago, as well as videos for Bruce Springsteen and The Pretenders – won a Best Director Oscar for the Silence of the Lambs.  He brings this historic Nashville concert – at the historic home of Grand Ol’ Opry – to viewers with a powerful artistic vision that could not be duplicated even by having been at the live event in person.  Previously I would have said The Last Waltz was the best feature film document of a live pop concert (and the music is more appealing to me), but now I would venture Heart of Gold is fully its equal.

Young, his high voice, guitars, banjo and piano are joined at various times on the stage by a group of musical friends, including his wife Pegi, Emmylou Harris, the Memphis Horns, a string ensemble, a small gospel choir and several backup singers. The film opens with short interviews with some of the performers as they are on their way in limos to the venue, Then it goes straight into the concert for the rest of the feature. Young’s songs include the film’s title tune, The Painter, Harvest Moon, and I Am a Child. I find a certain sameness of key, melody and lyrics among many of them, but there is no denying many pack plenty of emotion.  The concert occurred shortly after Young had recovered from a serious life-threatening operation for a brain aneurism, and he communicated most tellingly the emotional power of the evening for himself. His little patter between songs seemed deeper and more honest than one usually hears at such concerts.

I wasn’t enough of a fan to peruse all of the extras on the second DVD, but there is enough there to keep anyone interested busy for some time. The video transfer is excellent and I found the impact and naturalness of the DTS surround contributed to the feeling of being there in the auditorium.  Considering this was just a bunch a musicians on a stage with no special sets or props, it is amazing what a variety of images and “looks” Demme was able to customize to fit each particular song. He puts the closing credits over Young alone in the empty auditorium – just his voice and guitar, and when he finishes the song he packs the guitar in its case and walks slowly off into the shadows.

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– John Henry
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