According to wisegeek.com, a trunk show is “an event within the fashion world in which an artist or designer puts on a special display of his or her work for review by a select group.” According to a recent interview with director Jonathan Demme, his “Neil Young Trunk Show” is “the best damn music movie that’s ever been made.” Let’s tackle these statements one at a time.

According to wisegeek.com, a trunk show is “an event within the fashion world in which an artist or designer puts on a special display of his or her work for review by a select group.” According to a recent interview with director Jonathan Demme, his “Neil Young Trunk Show” is “the best damn music movie that’s ever been made.” Let’s tackle these statements one at a time.


The film, a follow-up – or as Demme puts it, a response – to his 2006 “Neil Young: Heart of Gold,” is indeed a special display of Young’s incredibly varied work, assembled from two concert dates on his 2007 “Chrome Dreams II” tour.


Here we’ve got large chunks of, as well as many complete, songs performed by Young and his band (Ralph Molina, Ben Keith, Rick Rosas, Pegi Young, Anthony Crawford) in styles ranging from rock to ballad to country to blues.


There are the familiar (“Cinnamon Girl,” “Oh Lonesome Me,” “Like a Hurricane”) and there are the rarely heard (“Mexico,” “Kansas”). There are the laid-back numbers (“Mellow My Mind,” a gorgeous acoustic version of “Cowgirl in the Sand”) and the straight-out rockers (the almost 20-minute “No Hidden Path,” the almost surf-like “The Sultan”).


Note: There’s no fashion, per se. In fact, it looks like Young has some paint splattered on his shirt.


But let’s get on to that “best damn music movie” business. This is a terrific film, one that plays out exceptionally well on a big screen with a great sound system. It focuses on an absolutely one-of-a-kind artist who writes great songs, plays them with skill, reckless abandon and passion, and has one of the most expressive faces in rock – a fact not lost on Demme, who, when he’s not shooting from the audience, likes to put his cameras just inches away from those seemingly pained grimaces. Young comes across as being equally at home whether he’s doing a solo piece at a piano or gracelessly skulking across the stage, ripping out a ragged guitar lead while the band manages to keep up with him.


Great stuff. But the “best”? Maybe Demme should take another look at “Stop Making Sense,” his own 1984 Talking Heads concert film. Or how about “Woodstock” or “The Last Waltz” or “A Hard Day’s Night”? Those are among the “best.” But “Trunk Show” isn’t all that far behind. It’s certainly one of the most intimate music movies ever made.


There’s a great moment where Young, backstage, offhandedly mentions his old band Crazy Horse by referring to them simply as “The Horse.” Another scene reveals the price Young has to pay for playing so long and so hard without a pick. Ouch! But then he’s back out on the stage, turning up the distortion switch to 11 or closing his eyes and crooning from the soul.


Here’s some advice. The film will probably be released on DVD in a matter of weeks, after a short theatrical run. Casual Neil Young fans can wait. The film will be just fine in your living room. But devoted fans – and there are a lot of us out there – simply must catch it on that big screen with other like-fans around them. There is literally nothing else in the world like a bigger-than-life Neil Young.


NEIL YOUNG TRUNK SHOW (Not rated) A documentary directed by Jonathan Demme and featuring a concert by Neil Young. 3 stars out of 4.