After the lights had dimmed, and the eyes of the audience attending the final
night of the 40th San Francisco International Film Festival--a screening of the
Jim Jarmusch (Dead Man, Stranger Than Paradise, Down By
Law, Mystery Train) directed Neil Young and Crazy horse
biopic/documentary Year of the Horse--were aimed at the screen, a troop
of shaggy haired men quietly took their seats in a reserved area of the Castro
Neil Young and Crazy Horse had arrived.
They were just in
time to hear Jarmusch take the stage and joke that he had no speech prepared,
but was going to "ramble on for 10 minutes." Jarmusch, an imposing figure in
black--jeans, boots and coat--with a head of rockabilly hair, recalled that as
a teenager he'd listened to Young's "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" about
But going on the road to film Year of the Horse had, he
said, allowed him to get to know the men behind the music that has moved him
for so many years. "I got to love them as people," said Jarmusch in what
appeared to be a send-up of Academy Awards speeches. "I don't know what I'm
saying...they're a pain in the ass...They should just get rid of that Neil
He noted that everyone from Young's manager, Elliot Roberts, to the
Crazy Horse guys themselves were in attendance. "Got the whole posse here,"
said Jarmusch. "So if you don't like the film, watch out...just leave by the
Though it wasn't because he doesn't like his film, Young and
his band did slip out so they could head over to the Trocadero to play two
sets. It took the first set--during which they delivered "Piece of Crap,"
"Downtown," "Rockin' In the Free World" and some new songs--to warm up, but by
set two they were rockin' like the world was coming to an end. "Cowgirl In the
Sand" and "Big Time" blew the roof off the sucker, as they say.
to the film...
Year of the Horse--"Proudly filmed in Super 8, 16 mm
and Hi-8 video"--is a stoned, often incoherent, blurry, self-absorbed and
indulgent look at Young and his Crazy Horse cohorts. In other words, it is a
simply awesome rock & roll film that should, like much great rock & roll,
draw a line in the sand, alienating those who don't get it even as it wins over
those who love the loud, raw noise that Crazy Horse has been pounding out for
"Made loud to be played loud. Crank it up!" flashed on the screen,
appropriate advice for a film whose soundtrack consists of some of the
heaviest, primal rock being made in the '90s.
Jarmusch has taken footage
shot while the band toured Europe last year (on stage, in hotel rooms, in the
bus), with older footage from the '70s and '80s and created an impressionistic
portrait that gets to the heart of Young and Crazy Horse's music, but leaves us
knowing little more about Young himself. I'm sure that's quite to the
mysterious Mr. Young's liking.
Highlights--beyond awesome performances of
such songs as "Big Time," "Like A Hurricane," "Slip Away" and "Tonight's the
Night"--include Young lighting a cloth flower arrangement he finds in a hotel
room on fire, Jarmusch and Young discussing the old and new testament and
deciding that God is, indeed, unhappy with how man has turned out as they
travel on a tour bus across the country and several yelling matches between
Young and his bandmates about song arrangements.
At one point a fan
interviewed in Europe says something about "the Neil Young universe." Year
of the Horse will certainly take you there.