Jim Jarmusch's offbeat documentary of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, which was screened earlier this year at the close of the San Francisco International Film Festival, will be released nationally for a limited run beginning in October.
Grunge guru Neil Young, who did the score for indie filmmaker Jarmusch's last movie Dead Man in 1995, and Crazy Horse provide the music and are the subject of the director's first-ever documentary, The Year of the Horse.
It's the first film to be made on the plaid-shirted rock legend, whose lengthy career included stints in Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. But it is as a solo artist, backed at times by Crazy Horse, and for the Mirror Ball album, by Pearl Jam, that Young has earned his place as one of the all-time rock 'n' roll greats.
According to October Films, who will distribute the documentary, Jarmusch was so inspired by his work with Young and his regular backup band Crazy Horse, that he decided to dedicate an entire film to their music. The film will open at The New York Film festival on Oct. 4, where Jarmusch and Crazy Horse members (not including Young who will be at the annual Farm Aid benefit show) will introduce the work, said Mary Flanagan, spokesperson for October Films.
Jarmusch, acclaimed writer and director of independent film hits Mystery Train, Stranger Than Paradise and Night on Earth, is a long time fan of Young, according to Flanagan. In fact, his artistic involvement with Young began before the two had met.
"I was listening constantly to Neil and Crazy Horse while writing the script for Dead Man," Jarmusch said in a press release issued this week. "From the very start of Dead Man, there were hopes of Neil Young performing the music for the film, but I was never very confident that this would actually happen," he added.
To Jarmusch's surprise, Young liked an early cut of the film, and went on to do the score. Since then, the two have worked on music videos for the "Dead Man Theme," and "Big Time" (from the Crazy Horse album, Broken Arrow). The pair enjoyed working together so much that they decided to collaborate on the feature-length film as well, Jarmusch said.
"Listen, we should do a longer film that looks and feels like the 'Big Time' video!" he quoted Young as saying.
Young's involvement in the actual production took place in a "very hands off, yet influential way," she said, adding that the rock icon worked with Jarmusch on the concept but not necessarily the production.
With The Year of The Horse, Jarmusch attempts to tap into some of the legacy surrounding Neil Young and Crazy Horse, who have played, in the words of Jarmusch, "their own transcendent brand of rock 'n' roll," since the early 1970s, influencing styles along the way and pioneering today's grunge rock.
Much of the film is shot with a Super-8 camera, which gives it a gritty and spontaneous feel that compliments the unbridled musical energy between Crazy Horse members Ralph Molina, Frank (Poncho) Sampedro, Billy Talbot and Neil Young.
The film contains behind the scene footage from Crazy Horse's '96 Europe and American tour, interviews and live performances from 1976 to 1996, including interesting footage shot by Young himself in 1986, taken from Bernard Shakey's unfinished film, Muddy Track.
"It's some of the most interesting live footage available," Flanagan said. -- Scott Hirsch [Mon., Sept. 22, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]