After an even longer break than usual, I'm back and I come bearing (or repeating) good news. I just returned from my first viewing of Neil Young: Heart of Gold and I can gladly confirm the overwhelming critical consensus: this is one of Jonathan Demme's major films and arguably his strongest work since 1986's Something Wild. For some reason, I had the impression going in that this was a minor project, thrown together quickly and with minimal strain or effort. Now I don't know about the quickly part -- in fact, I think the film was thrown together quite fast -- but this isn't a casual or minor film. This is a major cinematic achievement.
Much like Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz and Demme's own Stop Making Sense, Heart of Gold reaches a wildly satisfying state that I can only describe as emotional perfection. The only difference this time is that the musicians have a bit more wear on their faces, a few more years of history. With issues of mortality and failing health looming over the film, there's an unexpected sadness, weight, and humanity that comes through loud and clear. And don't get me started on Neil Young, who gives one of the most impressively sustained, powerful musical performances I've seen in a long time.
As I failed to report over the last several weeks, the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and it's currently playing on a few screens across North America. Be sure to catch it on the big screen, if you get the chance. You won't regret it. For more on Heart of Gold, check out the official site and this article that stemmed from an interview Young and Demme gave at Sundance.
Finally, I have one quick followup, regarding Roger Corman's involvement in "Masters of Horror". As fans of the show have probably noticed, Corman didn't manage to direct an episode, after all. The reported reason was health problems, but John Carpenter claimed in a recent interview that Corman's wife (Julie Corman, producer of Demme's Crazy Mama) intervened for fear that he couldn't handle the strain of directing at his age.
Next update: some new links.