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Plot:

A film shot over during a two-night performance by Neil Young at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.::Anonymous

Also Known As: Prairie Wind, Neil Young: Serce ze zlota, Нил Янг: Золотое сердце, Neil Young: Heart of Gold

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  • ronald-foot
    ronald foot

    The music of Van Morrison and Neil Young helped me through some complicated and conflicted feelings around the time this film first came out but I didn’t know about it then. I just recently came across it and picked it up for the same kind of vibe I got from listening to the ‘Harvest Moon’ album over and over again through the years. Apparently Jonathan Demme’s treatment and Young’s performance is intended to evoke a wistful and melancholy look back over his life and career, and at times it becomes almost maudlin. I couldn’t really relate to the Prairie Wind songs, and the line ‘If you follow every dream you might get lost’ managed to bother me a lot. It didn’t give me a very inspirational feeling about looking ahead for better things to come. The mood got better in the second half of the film when more familiar songs kicked in, and my favorite turned out to be “One of These Days”, a wistful song itself but one that holds out some hope of connecting one more time with past lives and loves. The only upbeat tune throughout the performance was ‘Old King’, though you have to overlook the fact that Young admits kicking the poor old mutt once and now he’s dead. The aftermath of this concert offering turns out to be a positive one. Young survived the brain surgery that was alluded to a couple times during the filming and one looks forward to additional productive years from this legendary musical performer. He’s one of the few artists I’d work my schedule around just to see him do what he does best.

  • vera-rajh
    vera rajh

    This concert film was directed by Oscar winning director Jonathan Demme and was apparently filmed just before Neil Young attended hospital to have a brain operation performed on him.The opening segments comprises of Young and fellow band members talking to the camera as they head towards the arena. The music and songs are mainly his acoustic set as the band (with guest vocalist Emmylou Harris) perform all but one of the ten numbers on the ‘Prairie Wind’ album and some of his classics such as Harvest Moon.This is a must see for Neil Young fans and also showcases his acoustic songs and is gorgeously filmed.

  • sylwia-siatka
    sylwia siatka

    I’m watching and listening as I write this review.I guess I’ve been a “closet” Neil Young fan for years. I often wondered how someone with a voice that didn’t have resonance and was a bit tinny and nasal, could capture my interest.Mr. Young keeps me coming back to this documentary. He’s brought a few of his friends, and does a superb job of keeping the audience entertained. For me, country and folk don’t always mix, but Neil and his friends do an incredible job of taking both and making them into two hours of great music.I was especially taken by “Old Man”, and my favorite song of all time “Four Strong Winds. Neil’s rendition of “Four Strong Winds” is right up there with Ian Tyson’s and Brenda Fricker’s version.Jonathan Demme’s camera positions and movement between the performers adds a great deal of warmth, and the cast seems to be singing to the viewer. They all seem to really enjoy bringing the music to us.The only sadness I note, is the passing of Rick Rosas, Neil’s bass player. Mr. Rosas was a real master of his art, and he’s missed.A well made documentary, and a great tribute to Neil Young’s music.

  • lucas-lemaitre-le-maillot
    lucas lemaitre le maillot

    As time goes on Young tries harder and harder to be like Dylan. He’s even dressing like him with the big ha, western garb and harmonica around his neck.Hey Neil — you’re no Dylan. And BTW, you’re a Canadian not a cowboy.Further you ripped off your fans with your PONO crap that you pulled the plug on with no warning. What a jerk.This flick is a second rate concert from a second rate singer.

  • camille-guillot-de-la-guilbert
    camille guillot de la guilbert

    We cannot believe how many people did not pick up on the sync problem in Neil Young’s ” Heart of Gold ” . My wife and i are seasoned pros in the biz.. and right off the mark noticed this obvious glitch. We were overcome with motion sickness symptoms, watching Neil’s guitar strumming??? and had to close our eyes for the duration of the film. The drummer in certain spots hits on 1 & 3 beat as supposed to the correct 2 & 4 Spooners Hammond organ were for the most part stripped…the bass player played notes on the 5th fret when it clearly was an open E note … etc etc I have a suspicion that the initial sound track did not cut it, and a “studio version” had to be constructed…Which in a way explains why the “live” sound was so warm and beautiful … it is a mystery to us .. no one that reviewed this wonderful movie ever picked up on this … even some of our guitar buddies !! We wonder how Neil and the gang feel watching it ???In spite of this..we still recommend this very touching film.Niels & Connie

  • k-ristine-xec-uriani
    k ristine xec uriani

    I saw the film with my wife last week in Vancouver. The theatre (Fifth Avenue Cinemas) is a small group of theatres with nice seats and great sound usually reserved for indie films. When I first sat down during the Saturday Matinée, I noticed a couple of elderly grannies beside me with silver white perms. I said to my wife that they must be in their eighties and I wondered why they would be here taking in a Neil Young movie. My wife said they were only in their seventies. And then a family came in with their two girls who were both under ten years old. By the time the theatre filled, I noticed that there were people from every generation, although most were in their mid-forties to mid-fifties.One of my first thoughts I had when the movie started was how hold Neil was looking. Everyone on the stage was looking rather ancient, except for Emilylou Harris, who is as ageless as a goddess and twice as beautiful. But once the music started, all the crows feet and turkey chins became secondary. Although I’m more of a fan of Neil’s eclectic guitar work with Crazy Horse, and can’t get enough of songs like “Change Your Mind” and “Big Time” and of course “Cortez” and all the other classics, I can easily warm up to some of his acoustic work. This film was all acoustic and mesmerizing in its stark beauty. Although very little of Neil’s music is instantly accessible–I don’t think I’ve ever liked a Neil Young album when it first came out–simultaneously watching and listening to how Neil and his band of musicians played revealed how much focus and power each moment had. Those awkward moments that I initially experienced while listening to the album before I attended the film, where some of the lyrics come across as being overly simplistic (such as when Neil, like countless other songwriters, rhymes “night” with “light”), during the movie became ripe with profound meaning. Deceptively simple phrases such as, “If you follow every dream, you might get lost,” and “A dream, it’s only a dream, and it’s fading now,” became powerful metaphors for the disillusionment and loss of ideals that are associated with getting old. But accompanying this disillusionment was also a sense of the real, of something that goes beyond ideals and philosophical constructs and touches on the actual essence of being and existence. I haven’t heard so much peeling away to the core since John Lennon sang “Dream is Over” right after the Beatles breakup.Another thing that truly struck me was the tremendous amount of restraint in all the musicians. Each note that was plucked, each word that was sung by Neil, Peggy, Emilylou Harris and the rest of the singers, was done with such focused attentiveness that they made it look easy. I remember hearing about Neil once tying up one of the arms of his drummer (I believe it was the late Kenny Buttry) to try to get him to play “less.” With Neil, it’s all about what’s under the surface. It’s all about the power of the subtle. Anyone who is familiar with Neil’s electric guitar work will know that Neil can say more with a single note than most guitarists can say with ten.In all, the film was like a glorious and serene meditation. I came out of it with the same feeling I used to get when I went to church as a kid but lost as an adult. I got the same feeling as I once did when I listened to Mahilia Jackson while driving through the desert. There is gold in Neil Young’s music, and Jonathan Demme did a wonderful job of letting that gold manifest visibly.If you have ever been sucked in by the undercurrent of Neil’s music, then this film is worth its weight in, well, gold. Not one audience member left until the final credit rolled and the “Shaky Pictures” logo appeared accompanied by a strangely discordant note (typically Neil). Only then did the entire audience stand up and enthusiastically applaud the film. I haven’t experienced a movie being applauded like this since I saw Neil’s other great concert film, “Rust Never Sleeps” many years ago.Highly recommended.

  • gulyas-k-maria
    gulyas k maria

    Do you like Neil Young? If so, this concert-movie is worth seeing in the theater. After a very brief introduction of the band and a few other people, we jump right in to the live music.He covers most (if not all) of his current album, Prairie Wind. Prairie Wind is a decent album, I’m still warming up to it. However, the recorded live sound on this movie is simply amazing.The closeups of Neil and the general cinematography is very good.OK, here’s the bad news. When my wife and I showed up, we had the theater to ourselves at 8 PM on a Friday evening (one other person arrived about 15 minutes late). I don’t think this one is going to stay in theaters for more than a week.Second, the tempo of the concert is pretty excellent throughout though it slows down in the final three songs. I would have liked to see a few more up-tempo songs to end. That’s really my only complaint.Finally, I think the sound of the songs are better here that the Prairie Wind recordings released on CD. I’ll probably get this DVD when it comes out just to listen to it.

  • herman-andresen-christoffersen
    herman andresen christoffersen

    If you live in the Hartford, CT area…avoid seeing this one at Cinema City in West Hartford. They only have two ineffective speakers at the front. None of the other speakers in the house were working!! This theater sucks big time. I asked for my money back, they refused.Anyway, this project’s as good as it gets for concert films. Neil Young was in great form, too. Excellent guest list by the way. A couple of sync issues, but no big deal. Nothing out of the ordinary for music concert oriented films. Camera work and editing is a “10”. It flows so well you’ll feel like you didn’t miss a thing in the editing. Not as jumpy from scene to scene as most offerings in this genre. I’ll buy the DVD.

  • diane-petitjean-du-moulin
    diane petitjean du moulin

    There are two kinds of Neil Young movies, those done by Jim Jarmusch like Year of the Horse, which is grungy and gritty and looked like it cost 1 dollar to shoot the entire shebang with a few extra cents for edits, and those like Heart of Gold, by Jonathan Demme, where everything is clear and crisp and brightly colored and the music fits the location of Nashville almost as well as Robert Altman’s treatment of the city. While Crazy Horse might provide some of the better rocking tunes of Young’s career, his album Prairie Wind is like a near perfect compilation of folk songs, light ballads, and other diddies that you can only get from someone trying to one-up a work like Harvest. Combined together, Demme and Young deliver the goods.Now, this isn’t to say it’ll be for everyone; certainly you’ll have to probably already like Prairie Wind (of which the concert was filmed pretty much as its debut for an audience), and there may be one or two tunes (i.e. It’s a Dream) that are way too sentimental even for die-hard Neil fans. But this being said, if you already dig the record, then it’s about as precious a gift as one can ask for. And for those who might find some flaws in the album itself, at the least the musicianship in the band is incredible, and it all leads up to some classic Young tracks (i.e. title of the movie, Old Man, Needle and Damage Done, Cortez the Killer), and Demme films it like it’s meant to be a golden cornfield or other. It’s also fascinating to see Young divulge some really autobiographical stuff (i.e. dad’s death, daughter, lovers, etc), when one sees how personal someone gets on the flip-side of the Bob Dylan coin to the audience.It might not be perfect- some of the early interviews are superfluous, but at it’s best, you’ll understand why Young is so appealing as an artist, and how his brand of inspired folk is enduring, powerful, and awe-inspiring. And it’s Demme to boot.

  • steven-burnett
    steven burnett

    Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006): Dir: Jonathan Demme / Featuring: Neil Young & associates: Beautiful concert documentary of the Prairie Winds Nashville concert of legendary musician Neil Young. Opening scenes feature interviews with band mates mostly within vehicles but structure is all concert but never boring. Young flawlessly performs several songs both old and new yet always showing great appreciation for his backup band. He tells of his father’s recent passing and how that has affected him in writing a song in his honor. He also wrote and dedicated another song to his daughter. What is most interesting about Young’s talent particularly as a song writer is his ability to express thoughts, many of which relate to the nature of growing. It is interesting that Jonathan Demme chose to direct this project after helming Silence of the Lambs and Beloved but it truly displays his range as a filmmaker as well as his passion for Young’s career. This is a very different project for Demme and must be a passion film for him to step back from mainstream Hollywood to engage in this. Negative aspects are minor at best. Perhaps more background footage particularly of members of the band might have added to a greater effect but as it is it plays as a great tribute. It is not just one of Demme’s best films, but to fans of Neil Young it will be a treasure to behold. Score: 6 ½ / 10

  • charles-gibson
    charles gibson

    This concert was filled with friendship, family, nostalgia, and great music. It is truly inspirational that Neil Young can continue to write beautiful songs. His Prairie Wind selections included outstanding, sincere and emotional songs; “Far from Home”, “It’s a Dream” and “Here for You” were exceptional! Being long time Neil Young fans, my husband and I enjoyed this most personal of concerts…there were close-ups of all the singers and musicians…Pegi and Neil Young exchanged warm smiles…songs were given a personal introduction by Neil. My husband and I only disagree about the visual setting for the concert. He thought the austere theater setting was contrived; I liked it.

  • mayte-romo-vasquez
    mayte romo vasquez

    “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” is a lovely companion to his latest album “Prairie Wind”, providing insight into both his life changes and the influences that led to its recording. The opening pilgrimage to the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, the former home of the Grand Ole Opry broadcasts, has been used in many films, including “Walk the Line”, with the same shots of some of the same musical touchstones, Hank Williams, etc. And we met Young’s band Crazy Horse, in more detail, in Jim Jarmusch’s “Year of the Horse”, that documented their years of touring as a jammin’ rock ‘n’ roll band up through 1997; here we get only a very brief introduction as they arrive, and we don’t even meet everyone who will be on stage.But we learn quite matter-of-factly that the album was recorded at the time Young was diagnosed with a brain aneurism and he wasn’t sure he would survive the surgery. So this smoothly spliced documentation of two special concerts after the surgery emphasizes his appreciation for music, life and family love that infuse the lyrics even more passionately than on disc. Like the album, the film is dedicated to his father, who passed away shortly before the filming. Director Jonathan Demme has staged the concerts in a formally conceptual tribute to the Opry. As we hear but do not see the audience throughout, each song is introduced by a different painted scrim of a Western scene behind the performers, reinforced by Ellen Kuras’s gorgeous cinematography and lighting, the first act with a gold “harvest moon” hue (a recurring imagery in Young’s songs over many albums) and the second with a blue, sunset tinge. Everyone we see fits into the background with wonderful Western-inspired outfits, demonstrating the gloriously distinctive work of Manuel. (From the official web site: “Equally key to the dream-mood of the film’s look are the original costumes created by Nashville’s legendary artist/designer Manuel for every person seen on stage, including Neil Young’s technical crew. Manuel conceived costumes that were both period and timeless. . .”) The instrumentation evokes a range of Americana and gospel music with voice and singing styles, guitars, banjo, fiddles/violins, harmonica and autoharp.Unlike Young’s own “Greendale” that approached conceptualizing his songs by explicitly acting out the lyrics, the words here actually have more impact, reinforced by effective close-ups, as the influences on Young’s life and music are there on the stage with him. He is joined by family (his wife Pegi Young), and long time band mates, as well as frequent past collaborators, from the many individually added players to the Memphis Horns, Emmy Lou Harris, noted singer/songwriter Spooner Oldham and the Fisk University Singers, for a selection of songs (though not all of them) from “Prairie Wind” that reflect on his childhood in Canada, his faith, his daughter, wife, father, Willie Nelson and Hank.Unfortunately, the second act, with a change to more country-ish costumes, does not quite pack the emotional wallop as the first, as he picks out popular hits from his past albums that fit the theme.Particularly annoying is how Pegi Young overwhelms the angelic harmony of Harris such that she literally seems to be moving her lips with no sound coming out, particularly as she sings so beautifully on the album. (The apparent tension between the two of them reminded me of Patti LaBelle and Joan Baez unequally sharing a microphone at the climax of the first Live Aid concert.) The credits list many, many re-mixers at work so one wonders who dialed out her contribution of the final mix.But the concluding “Four Strong Winds”, with one of Young’s few introductions during the film (in addition to the background on “This Old Guitar”), as he explains his fondness for songwriter Ian Tyson and the Canadian memories this classic stirs, ratchets up the sentiment. Similarly, the rendition here of “Old Man” is strikingly different from the one Jarmusch captured, movingly incorporating Young’s recent experiences.Without seeing this beautiful film, I wouldn’t have realized that “Prairie Wind” is as much a concept album as Green Day’s “American Idiot”. This film is an important documentation of a significant artist who has absorbed the heritage of North America’s music to create a major body of work that looks both to the past and the future.

  • eliza-ch-xartishvili
    eliza ch xartishvili

    As the first genre listed on IMDb for this “movie” was Documentary i watched it expecting a documentary. As it turns out that genre is probably only referring to the first 5 or so minutes of the movie. The rest of the runtime is just a concert registration, which was a shame for me. I’m not a fan of Neil Young or his music, i just watched the movie to watch a legend talk, the same way i watched Walk The Line to broaden my horizon, even though I’m no fan of Johnny Cash.The concert is well played and well recorded, but if you’re not into Neil Young it’s not very entertaining. There is hardly any show element, it only proves that he can play live just as well as in a studio.

  • abhy-ddaanii
    abhy ddaanii

    First off, I’m a pretty big Neil Young fan, so I guess I’m a little biased. I expected to like this video, but it ended up exceeding my expectations. It’s an entirely acoustic set, and I think Neil is normally at his best when doing acoustic, and this was no exception. Most of the songs performed are from the Prairie Wind album with a few older songs mixed in. There wasn’t one song that was anything less than good.Additionally, the filming of the show by Jonathan Demme is the best I’ve ever seen of a concert. The camera angles, stage background, everything makes this a very well shot video.Neil Young in top form, plus Demme in top form makes for a must own for Neil Young fans. But I’m sure the fans didn’t need to be encouraged to go pick this up. For everyone else, if you have even the slightest interest in Young or just want to see a great acoustic concert performance, I suggest you give this a try. It’s the best concert film I’ve ever seen.

  • teterin-mir-borislavich
    teterin mir borislavich

    I too, like Neil Young. He is definitely an icon in the music world, and much of what we have today in the way of music is based on people like him, the Beatles, Sex Pistols, etc.HOWEVER…I think that people come to a point where they think something is GOOD just because an ICON is singing it. This movie, for the most part, bored the crap out me as Neil sung about his guitar “it cries when I leave it” his kids “they will move on.” It is like he takes a statement and puts it to music, and that is BORING. Like me singing “I went to the store. Bought some eggs” The end of the show is awesome…he plays some of the songs with which most are familiar.

  • akhil-mhaajn
    akhil mhaajn

    OK, I’m a long time Neil fan, and I must admit to a little trepidation upon going to see this film tonight; one of the great things about Neil is that you never know what you’re going to get. Prairie Wind turns out to be a beautiful meditation on mortality and age. Age is everywhere in this movie: Neil’s never looked older (though he still looks great), Emmy Lou Harris’s crystalline beauty is yielding to age (though her smile after the dog tune was still as radiant as ever); Larry Cragg is, well, craggier than ever. Mixed in here are the recent death of Neil’s father, the coming of age of his daughter Amber, and his own brush with mortality in the form of a brain aneurysm. Jonathan Demme’s work allows the luminosity to shine through undiminished; the ambivalence and intensity contained in some of the songs, especially ‘When God Made Me’ is amplified by the Demme’s fearless framing and ability to stay on a single shot minute after minute. Neil Fans: Look for a few great cameos: Old Black being played by someone who is not Neil; Larry Cragg playing the banjo lick on ‘Old Man’ (sweet); and even Cortez the Killer makes an appearance (but not inside the Ryman). Notice Pegi’s gracious reaction when Neil dedicates a tune to Nicolette Larson. I had the great pleasure to see the film with my young son, and it was moving to see him take it all in. All in all, a really moving movie….I’ll be seeing it again.

  • wendy-reeves
    wendy reeves

    At South By Southwest today, I saw the excellent new Jonathan Demme film on Neil Young performing in Nashville, Neil Young: Heart of Gold. Good to see the Demme style applied to a great artist. Neil had just gotten over his aneurysm surgery and the loss of his father, so it was an emotional show. It’s worth it to see it on the big screen.As in Stop Making Sense, there were no shots of the audience. When asked about that in Q & A, Demme said “If there isn’t one thing up on stage more interesting than the audience, you shouldn’t be up there performing.” Piece of trivia: When Neil first became a rich hippie, he bought a large ranch that he still has. An old caretaker took him by Jeep around the property and they came to an overlook. The man asked “How can a young guy like you afford a place like this?” Neil wrote Old Man for him.

  • jindrich-fiala
    jindrich fiala

    When Neil Young breaks from singing his own lyrical compositions in Neil Young: Heart of Gold to sing what he calls the most beautiful song ever composed, I knew exactly which Canadian piece it would be, for it was mine too. I listened as a young man to Ian Tyson’s “Four Strong Winds” for an entire evening, over and over, as Young did emptying his pockets for a juke box at i6 years old in Calgary. Young had my heart for this performance and a lifetime.At this point in Jonathan Demme’s two days of filming Young and friends at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, weeks before his operation for a brain aneurysm, I also knew this was the best concert film I had seen in recent memory.Young’s singing Tyson’s song symbolized the real heart of gold he so obviously has calling someone else’s work the best. In this film, however, no one could be better than Young. His voice seems to have lost none of its resonance and feeling since his searching for a heart of gold song made him almost iconic; his stories, such as one about his guitar coming from Hank Williams and then set to song in The Old Guitar, make the only bridges necessary among songs in a concert of songs. When he duets with Emmylou Harris on that song, her delivery seems consciously stoic in order to let Young’s understated performance be the gold standard that night.Demme, who has successes with Stop Making Sense and Storefront Hitchcock, concentrates most of his shots on close-ups of Young, whose low-key style demands the audience get as close as possible. The backgrounds change on the theme of his new album, Prairie Wind, so that a new mural of the southwest is brought across as the songs change.Concert gold.

  • lucas-de-roux
    lucas de roux

    There are certain musician/singers whose voices I never tire of. It’s the special quality of their voice and a unique musical style that sets them apart. No one else can sound like them. Van Morrison, Prince, Joe Cocker, the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones…and Neil Young. Director Jonathan Demme did a damn good job filming this wonderfully romantic tribute to just such a musician — especially since it was clearly made on the fly as a just-in-case last rite and pre-mortem memorial before Neil Young’s impending brain surgery. I must confess that, in the anonymity of the dark theatre, I wept tears of profound sorrow and bittersweet nostalgia as Neil took us on a meditative journey from his early roots to the present. The cynicism of an earlier time morphed into circumspection, reminding us of passions left behind, or forgotten or tempered through experience. The criticism of this film as a boomer sapfest and a sellout is grossly misguided and small-minded. This is a film about a man reviewing his life as he faces the possibility of his death. It is poignant beyond words, and poignancy is the loveliest of emotions.

  • fru-tina-lund
    fru tina lund

    Hard for me to filter out my decades-long love for this man and his music from my comments.As a “Concert-Movie”–and I’ve seen most of them going back to the early 1970s– it might be the best I have ever seen.I’m absolutely planning to see it again, maybe more than once. Demme’s touch allowing the musicians/the music/the locale to tell the stories was masterful; I felt the editing might have been technically a bit choppy but as “grit/context” it was excellent (kind of “Last Waltz” like but a bit smoother).But the sub-text that will get to some but not all Neil Young fans (I feel all Neil fans will flat-out absolutely love this movie): this great great man and musician is clearly reflecting on his life in his music, in his banter and in his eyes.The aneurysm was an unbelievable muse, both in looking back and (hopefully,gently) looking forward. He like me (I’m about his age)–and this is why I suspect the degree of connection to this film might be somewhat related to age–knows most is behind, we hope there’s still stuff ahead. This was in there somewhere in each of the film’s songs.The close-ups of everyone are off-putting at first and then I came to treasure the “intimacy”.And never before have I witnessed a film’s content– the great songs that made the final cut–so consistently compatible with this awesome “old man, taking a look at (his) life”, surrounded by his “friends” (those that are left), in words, music and atmosphere.Music lovers: don’t miss this movie. Great job by Mr. Demme!!!

  • sigurd-marius-madsen
    sigurd marius madsen

    This is a must see for Neil fans! Just shot in August of 2005. Not the Last Waltz but a great concert picture. Might be released as “Heart of Gold” not Prairie Wind. He’s added some lb’s but still sounds great. A pretty heartfelt performance. Original arrangements for the older tunes. Just close your eyes and go back in time. Great mix and remix. (nothing worse than a concert picture that sounds bad) Demme puts you in the first few rows of the auditorium except for two bizarre shots that remind you “oh yea someone is filming this I’m not at the concert” I believe Neil was having brain surgery a few days after the concert. Kind of a Goodbye to friends and fans if he didn’t make it. Fortunately he’s fine. You’ll want to see this in an auditorium with a big screen and great sound like I did.

  • tinca-dobre
    tinca dobre

    Neil Young turned 60 last year. It was not his easiest year. His father died, a man very dear to Young, the man who really started Young on his long musical career when he gave him an Arthur Godfrey ukulele when he was seven or so. To make a grievous year worse, Young was discovered to have a life threatening cerebral aneurysm and required two surgical procedures to correct it, operations that were sandwiched in between recording sessions for his newest album, “Prairie Wind.” Nevertheless, he came back and, surrounded by his longtime favorite musician friends and others, gave a whale of a pair of concerts on August 18 and 19, 2005, at Nashville’s fabled Ryman Auditorium, home to the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. Jonathan Demme and a first rate camera crew shot the show, and this film is the result.Demme, better known to many for his narrative films, like “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Philadelphia” and “Beloved,” brings plenty of experience to making performance films as well. In 1984 he collaborated with David Byrne and Talking Heads to make the highly regarded concert film, “Stop Making Sense,” and in 1998 he filmed a concert by Brit folk-soft rocker Robyn Hitchcock, “Storefront Hitchcock.” He also filmed the late monologist Spalding Gray’s “Swimming to Cambodia” in 1987, and has made short performance films and videos with Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. “Heart of Gold” opens with brief, informal interview segments with several of the band members and a few glimpses of Nashville in the vicinity of The Ryman. Then we cut to the chase, the concert itself, which has two segments.In the first part, Young and his band perform all but one of the 10 numbers on the “Prairie Wind” album; after that, there’s a series of Young’s past hits. There’s just one song written by somebody else, Young’s fellow Canadian Ian Tyson’s wistful 1963 ballad, “Four Strong Winds,” which Young tells the audience was an inspiration to him when he was getting started in music at age 17 or so. The concert is beautiful in every respect. Young still can deliver in his distinctively soulful, mellow, plains roots manner, often shifting up an octave into falsetto, a trademark sound of his. The accompanying musical group and their arrangements are all marvelous.The cinematography, a team effort led by DP Ellen Kuras (“I Shot Andy Warhol,” “Bamboozled,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “No Direction Home – Bob Dylan”), is sublime. Camera angles are imaginative; the shots are simple and held long, never distracting the viewer’s attention from the musicians; and the focus is always on the stage, no swoopy audience shots are allowed. The editing, by Andy Keir (“Mandela,” Beloved,” “The Secret Lives of Dentists,” “Off the Map”) is just as it should be for a musical performance film: not a single song is interrupted even once. Stage backdrops in lovely colors – muted yellows and ochres – enhance the visual effects.The concert nicely balanced the new with the old in Young’s music. If the fresh songs from “Prairie Wind” don’t include any obvious blockbuster hits in the making, the uniform virtuosity with which they are written and delivered indicates that Young’s talent is still very much intact. Before a song inspired by his 21 year old daughter, Young says he used to write numbers like this for women his own age when he was young, and “I’ve still got a few left in me.” Maybe I’m starting a new genre now, though, one for “empty nester” songs, he goes on to say.Young doesn’t shy away from nostalgia here. And why should he? At 60, a survivor of a bad year, with a wondrous songbook behind him, it is that time in life for anyone to begin to be reflective. He talks about his much used guitar, which he bought from Grant Boatwright years ago. It once belonged to Hank Williams, who played it on the Ryman stage in his last appearance there in 1951.For anyone whose formative or defining life experiences were, like mine, sometimes accompanied by Young’s music – from his 1968 hit with Buffalo Springfield, “I Am a Child,” and “Heart of Gold,” in 1972, onward – this concert is sure to be emotionally compelling. For that matter, anyone who appreciates country-pop music, and the images of traditional Americana it evokes, cannot fail to find satisfaction watching this movie, satisfaction we also see in the faces of the players themselves, several of whom have worked with Young for 30 years or more, so glad to be back on stage with each other and with Young, their leader, feeling stronger again and healing.With Emmylou Harris (vocals, guitar), Ben Keith (band leader, steel guitar), Spooner Oldham (keyboards), Rick Rosas (bass), Grant Boatwright (guitar), Karl T. Himmel and Chad Cromwell (drums), Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns (trumpet), Neil’s wife Pegi Young (vocals, guitar), Anthony Crawford (vocals, guitar), Diana Dewitt (vocals), Gary Pigg (vocals), Tom McGinley (tenor sax), Jimmy Sharp (guitar, vocals), Clinton Gregory (fiddle), Larry Cragg (guitar, banjo, trombone, fiddle, vocals, broom), the Fisk University Singers and The Nashville String Machine. My grade: A 10/10.

  • vicki-griffin
    vicki griffin

    First, I will say: I recommend seeing the movie without reading anything about it. Just go, sit yourself down, and open your eyes and ears.Without being heavy-handed the film takes you into the music and the unique energy of a live show. One of my favorite details was seeing a singer in the Fisk University choir getting into the music.Groups of musicians would step on and off stage: the Fisk University choir (local to Nashville?), a small string orchestra, and a horn section. The backup singers including Emmylou Harris and Pegi Young were fixtures (sorry, don’t know the third singer). Some of the best scenes, I thought, were of the backup singers crooning into a single mic. Neil Young crooning with a choir of black voices is an unexpected aural delight.Though I have long been a fan of Neil Young, this film was the first time I saw what a formidable performer he is. He owns the stage and the hall. He and his band are more precise and polished — even in their grittiness and “rustiness” — than I would have expected.The film is gorgeous to look at. You get to look in detail at the band members — their clothes, their faces, their hair, one with a bulbous nose. And the pedal steel player’s fingers and restrained soulfulness. My heart leapt when I heard the banjo player come in on “Old Man.” It was interesting to hear some of the newer Prairie Wind material towards the top of the show. The second song absolutely knocked my socks off. Still, hearing the well-known older songs (Old Man, Heart of Gold) was like encountering an old friend unexpectedly.I was wondering how the sound quality was achieved. This was a major factor in the film’s success: at peak moments the ensemble works up to an incredible momentum and texture. Seeing the chemistry of the band members at these points is exhilarating. Demme captures that very well — but again, without forcing it on you.Some of the backdrops for the band were surprisingly cheesy. I have to think there’s a whisper of irony in the hearth scenery with the easy chair (and antlers, as I recall).I thought of Christopher Guest’s “A Mighty Wind” more than once. One song in particular about his dog, in which Neil starts snuffling into the mic, could have come straight out of “Mighty Wind.”Make no mistake: Neil Young is a philosopher-king of rock and roll. His band and the dedicated people around him seem essential to what he achieves.

  • marianna-judek
    marianna judek

    I’ve seen this film twice and must say that, with Heart of Gold, Jonathan Demme has created the definitive Neil Young concert – this is as good as Neil Young gets and Demme has captured him perfectly. Neil Young fans and those who are turned on to him by this film will probably want to buy the DVD when it comes out. But see it in a theater if you can – production values are extremely high (this is no amateurish production), camera work (particularly the close up camera work) is among the best I have ever seen, the editing is superb, and the content is as good as it gets for a film of this genre.Although I’ve been a Demme fan for years, I was lukewarm about Neil Young before seeing this film – count me as a big Neil Young fan now too. Jonathan, if you are reading this – any chance you could capture Stephen Stills one of these days?

  • janice-collins
    janice collins

    I am a Neil Young fan for over 25 years. I love most of his work. I hate some of it. Neil likes to experiment. He is never afraid of failure. This boils down to ‘You can’t please everybody’. I have attended about 8 of his concerts plus his previous movie ‘Rust Never Sleeps’. I took my son on his 20th birthday to the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood to see this movie. I also took my my wife, my 11 year-old daughter, and my son’s 18 year-old girlfriend. Everyone of us loved the movie. The theatre was completely silent during the entire program. The lady next to me actually clapped after several songs. It was easy to forget we were at a movie. It felt so much like a live performance, except the acoustics were better and we could see every performer. Maybe I can identify with many of the songs he sang. My son has left home and come back. My father is in the early stages of ‘Dementia’. This made the performance very personal for me. I had to remind myself that Neil was performing for millions of fans, not just myself. The movie is beautiful in its simplicity. It does not rely on sets or props or special effects. Just a bunch of very talented musicians. The lighting and camera work truly complete the mood. The day after we saw the movie, my 11 year-old daughter told me she understood the song Neil sang about his daughter. She understood the line ‘I miss you, but I won’t hold you down’. Yes, I loved this movie. I only wished I was at the Ryman during filming. Go see this movie. Take your wives, your kids, your friends, and anyone else you can think of.