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1 item from 1997

Film review: 'Year of the Horse'

6 October 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Concert movies tend to come in two varieties: the straightforward, simple kind, where the cameras are turned on and the musicians let it rip, and the artsy, conceptual kind, where the filmmakers attempt to make a cinematic statement in conjunction with the music.

Jim Jarmusch's fan letter to Neil Young and Crazy Horse is an example of the latter, and the results won't completely please fans of either the iconoclastic director or the legendary rockers.

The film, after showing at the New York Film Festival, opens commercially Friday.

Unlike the more conventional "Rust Never Sleeps", "Year of the Horse" is less a straightforward concert film than an impressionistic look at the band, whose longevity is now approaching the 30-year mark.

Shot mainly in Super 8 and 16mm, the film includes extensive concert footage (mostly current, although there is an amazing 1976 version of "Like a Hurricane"), interviews with Young, the members of the band and various other figures (including the singer's father, one of his biggest fans), and previously unseen road footage shot in 1976 by a British crew and in 1986 by Young himself.

The results are quite uneven, with the film alternating between being musically powerful in the concert sequences and more than a little boring in the stiffly staged interviews.

The group members are clearly uncomfortable with this "hip, trendy, New York director" coming in trying to encapsulate their identity; "He's not gonna capture anything," guitarist Pancho Sampedro sneers.

The other footage includes scenes of backstage squabbling and a vintage segment in which the band, in the best rock 'n' roll tradition, sets a fire in a hotel room.

Musically, Jarmusch concentrates on the band's rawer side, with an emphasis on lesser-known songs and the band's lengthy instrumental jams.

Crazy Horse's brand of music is, of course, rock at its most passionate and primal, and the film ably demonstrates why they have inspired an entire generation of grunge rockers.

Naturally, the volume is turned to deafening levels: "Crank it up", the projectionist is instructed during the opening credits.

Still, the grainy Super 8 footage -- although it undeniably provides an appropriate visual correlative to the music -- ultimately becomes uncomfortable to watch.

It would have been nice if Jarmusch had relied more on the power and immediacy of the music he was documenting instead of trying so hard to put his own stamp on the material.


October Films

Director Jim Jarmusch

Executive Producers Bernard Shakey,

Elliot Rabinowitz

Producer L.A. Johnson

Cinematographers L.A. Johnson, Jim Jarmusch

Editor Jay Rabinowitz

Music Neil Young & Crazy Horse


Running time -- 107 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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