Michael Buckner | Frazer Harrison, Getty Images Now this is a collaboration that…
- Posted on Sep 14th 2009 4:25PM by Liisa Ladouceur
The free outdoor screening, part of TIFF's 'In Concert' series, garnered much buzz when word hit weeks ago that Young himself would show up. Alas, as Demme tells Spinner, sometimes "life intrudes."
"He would have loved to have been here," says the Oscar-winning director, in town to introduce the film. "I talked to him last night and we both feel bad about it. But I feel like I'm the messenger that's bringing Neil to Toronto tonight in the form of the film, on the big screen."
'The Trunk Show' is Demme's second feature-length film with Neil Young, a follow-up to 2006's box-office success, 'Heart of Gold.' Both capture the Canadian music icon live in performance, although the 'Trunk Show's mostly hand-held style is more rough 'n' tumble than the meticulously crafted 'Heart of Gold.'
Demme, the director of 'Silence of the Lambs' and 'Philadelphia' as well as the classic Talking Heads concert film 'Stop Making Sense,' credits Martin Scorsese's slick, larger-than life Rolling Stones documentary 'Shine a Light' for inspiring his more "punk" and "arthouse" filmmaking this go-round.
"When I saw 'Shine a Light,' which is obviously fantastic, I thought, 'This is the fulfillment of concert films. It's such a lavish, amazing presentation of a rock show there's nowhere else to go. Unless you tear it down and start all over again.' So there was no choice."
The film was shot over two nights in 2007 at the Tower Theater in Pennsylvania during Young's 'Chrome Dreams II' tour. It eschews the chronology of the concerts' set lists, instead jumping around between electric and acoustic numbers both familiar ('Cowgirl in the Sand,' 'Cinnamon Girl') and rare ('Ambulance Blues, 'Mexico') and what passes for costume changes at a Young show (jacket goes on, jacket comes off). The focus is on the interactions between Young and his band, and Demme admits there was "minimal" pre-planning before the shoot. "I just tried to respond spontaneously to the music," he says.
One impromptu moment captured in the film is when Young appears to forget the words to his hit 'Like a Hurricane.' Demme responded by putting the lyrics up onscreen, karaoke style. "The whole point of that song is that the person telling the story gets lost in a hurricane," Demme explains, laughing. "So when Neil is wandering around the stage, forgetting to sing into the microphone, it was like he got lost, too. I thought it was perfect. And Neil liked it; he asked me to keep it in."
Demme admits he's a "Neil Young groupie" and says he's already planning a third film with the singer, although no details are forthcoming. And while he says "nothing can ever compete with live music," he still finds concert filmmaking exciting.
"We can present a more intimate view of what's going on on the stage." he says. "We can pull the audience out of their seat and put them inside the music. Because it's the music that's the message. It's what takes us on the journey."