"Ah, Neil. You're a great musician. Please do not attempt filmmaking."
Everyone knows rock stars shouldn't make movies, but that goes double for old, drug-addled ones like Neil Young. I respect the heck out of the guy's music, but his directorial skills are so lacking, it's an insult to the word "lacking.""Greendale" is an 83-minute album of music videos. We hear 11 songs that more or less tell the stories of the people in the titular town, all sung by Neil Young and played by him and his band, Crazy Horse. The characters in the town sometimes lip-sync when a song's lyrics include quotations from them, but that's the closest to "dialogue" that the movie has.
The story is vague, and the parts that are clear are pretentious. A guy named Jed shoots the cop who pulled him over; immediately after this, there are images of John Ashcroft, with lyrics warning about the Bush administration's eroding of our civil rights ("leave the doing to us," Young sings).
There is also a sea captain who warns his mates about the "devil's sidewalk," which is portrayed literally as a sidewalk on which a man in a red coat and red shoes -- the devil, one gathers, if not Tommy Tune -- dances crazily while playing the harmonica.
Young's fixation on the Alaskan wilderness and environmentalism in general are predominant themes, and the film culminates in a chorus of "Be the rain!" sung over and over again by the townsfolk.The cinematographer is Young himself, which may explain why the film stock is grainy and cheap and the whole film looks like a home movie from the '70s. Chapters have titles like "II: Double E: (a while ago, later)." A lot of the music truly rocks, but the film is agonizingly dull. I can recommend it only to hardcore Neil Young fans and/or stoned people.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.