Neil Young Greendale

It was interesting to see how this film was originally reviewed in two separate ways: for fans of Neil Young and the rest of the theatre-going public. Of course that's because the fans should already have known that any project by Young was going to possess his instinctual creative process, which often gets mistaken for sloppiness. While this trait has kept him revered as one of rock's true iconoclasts, it hasn't served him well in his infrequent forays into film. When mounting the extravaganza that became Greendale last year, expectations were high that another Rust Never Sleeps might be in the offering. However, the concept proved slightly unwieldy, as the stage play that was mounted alongside Young's set with Crazy Horse received a few too many reviews comparing it to a bad high school musical. Putting the whole thing on film is another story however, and those familiar with the live show and the album will be sufficiently prepared to once again delve into the lives of the Green family. The best part is that the film (shot in 8mm) essentially serves as a long-form video for the album, just as the stage play accompanied the concert, and although the songs at first listen aren't among the best Young has ever written, taken as a whole they eventually grow into a powerful song cycle. As a director, Young does a fair job following his own narrative, although the amateur cast (including Young's long-time musical compadre Ben Keith) has little to do beyond lipsynching the lyrics. But after getting through the rather conventional opening of the tale — middle-aged hippie couple and their extended family cope with being outcasts in a small California town — Young does begin capturing some moving moments, especially in the middle section when black sheep Jed Green goes to jail for killing a police officer. This is followed by a stunning scene accompanying the song "Bandit," where ex-Vietnam vet Earl Green contemplates suicide. The final third, chronicling daughter Sun Green's transformation into a radical environmental activist is a tad predictable, but by this point the story is fully running under its own power and Young is acting more like a documentarian. Overall, Greendale is consistent with its sister projects, and is at times a baffling barrage of social commentary that nonetheless provokes more thought each time it is experienced. Venture into it if you dare. Plus: "The Making Of Greendale," interviews, live clips, more. (Sanctuary)