HERE IS the complete plot of Neil Young Journeys, the third full-length documentary Jonathan Demme has made about the Canadian American singer/songwriter in the past six years: Neil Young drives around his childhood hometown of Omemee, Ontario, before heading down to Toronto's Massey Hall to play a show.
That sounds like a potentially enlightening, illuminating look at the enigmatic performer, but Demme doesn't quite pull it off: The handheld footage in Omemee is sorta interesting but lazily inessential in a DVD-bonus-materials kind of way. (Sample revelations: As a child, Young used to stick firecrackers up small animals' butts, and he only ever listens to music on shitty car speakers—a bizarre undermining of Young's high-profile efforts to institute massive, high-resolution media files as a substitute for crappy-sounding MP3s.)
The rest of Journeys is made up of performance footage from Young's pair of 2011 Massey Hall shows, in which he performed the bulk of his 2010 album Le Noise. It's a unique period in his career, as he performs many of the songs alone on an amplified Gretsch White Falcon, differing from his usual solo-performance format of rifling through an arsenal of old wooden acoustics. The highlights, unsurprisingly, come from Young's back catalog; a fiery "Down by the River" and a delicate piano rendition of "I Believe in You" are reminders of why Young's remained so vital for so long.
But the rest of Journeys is for Young diehards only. Demme ill-advisedly makes ample use of a mic cam—a camera attached to Young's microphone—which provides a more generous glimpse of the aging rocker's lower chin than you perhaps require. When a fleck of Young's spit makes its way onto the mic cam, it smears up nearly half the screen. Alarmingly, Demme doesn't cut; you'll be looking at a gigantic close-up of Neil Young's saliva for minutes on end.