Opens Fri., March 19
When all else fails, Jonathan Demme can always do a concert picture. Narrative movies no longer come so easily to the Oscar winner, and his nonmusic documentaries (The Agronomist, Man From Plains) tend to be disorganized detritus. But set the guy loose on one of his many music legend pals and you automatically get a genre classic- something imaginatively filmed yet not so technically overbearing that it doesn't deliver the goods.
But what constitutes a "Jonathan Demme concert picture?" It's hard to say. Stop Making Sense captured the Talking Heads. Its opposite, Storefront Hitchcock, put you in a room with elder statesman period Robyn Hithcock. Heart of Goldand now Trunk Show both fete Neil Young, but couldn't be more different.
Gold perched the Canadian wailer on a clean stage playing his hits. Meanwhile, Trunk Show, which bottles up his stop at Upper Darby's Tower Theater during his Chrome Dreams II tour in 2007, unfolds on a ramshackle stage. Sartorially unkempt and equipped with backing musicians he claims are more versatile, he steers clear of Harvest and dips into songs rarely performed. Demme says he counted 40 walk-outs during the epic jam on "No Hidden Path," though you could hear a pin drop as he unleashes "Ambulance
Historically, Demme has presented his shows as-is, no bells or whistles. Trunk Show offers, in its own words, "scenes from a concert," mixing up the show's two halves- acoustic-intimate and full-band sludge-a-thons-and sporadically throwing in a backstage moment or pre-show hang-out for no good reason besides, well, why not.
Put together, the two films reveal multiple sides to its subject, each one valid. If Young seemed as though he was being interred in a mausoleum in the spit-shine clean Heart of Gold, the looser, more shaggy dog Young of Trunk Show mirrors what Greil Marcus said about him in his lauded review of Everyone Knows This is Nowhere: "Neil Young doesn¹t know where the limits are- he goes too far, blows it, overdoes it. He takes risks with his music, his lyrics, his voice, his guitar. Because he takes risks he gets a lot farther, sometimes, than those with more talent and better sense." Trunk Show is imperfect, and that's as it should be.
Overly unusual protagonists and the requisite miserable Swedish locations aside, this is standard detective stuff.
Deep underneath this over-stuffed but relentlessly light farce lies fucked-up, near-Bergman-esque turmoil.