Unlike 2006's Heart of Gold — Jonathan Demme's first film about Neil Young — Neil Young Journeys isn't strictly a concert doc. A third of it is footage of Young simply driving, in a 1956 Crown Vic, to a Toronto concert hall, winding through the small Ontario towns where he grew up and about which (sometimes joined by his brother, Bob) he tells nostalgic, dryly humorous anecdotes.
That's intercut with excerpts from a solo show, heavy on tunes from his acclaimed 2010 solo album Le Noise, with some pre-1980 classics worked in. In concert, wearing a shapeless white suit jacket and battered straw fedora, Young, 65, ranges from the thick, angry fuzz of "Ohio" to the acoustic elegance of "Peaceful Valley Boulevard." Demme respectfully offers whole songs, not clips; the performance is shot mostly in close-up, including the alarmingly intimate views afforded by a mike-mounted camera.
The film's curiously bifurcated structure highlights the contrast between the laid-back, if quirky, offstage Young and his sometimes demonically intense stage persona. You wonder: How did this kid, from that place, become Neil Young? It's a journey with a beginning and an end, its half-century-long middle left a tantalizing mystery.