Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

In praise of amateurism
Neil Young’s Super-8 Greendale
Directed and written by Neil Young ("Bernard Shakey"). With Sarah White, Eric Johnson, and Ben Keith. A Shakey Pictures release (83 minutes). At the Copley Place and the Kendall Square.

Neil Young’s Greendale is a heartfelt piece of Americana and an anti–music video. Shot in Super-8, it’s also an act of sustainable filmmaking, setting its sights on nothing that’s not readily within its reach.

The story is simple. In the rural American town of Greendale, one of the members of the Green family kills a policeman who pulls him over on the road; another, an environmentalist, stages a protest against a power company and is targeted by the FBI. The position from which the film is made is straightforward. The family, their members united by unquestioning loyalty, stand in a non-exploitative relationship with the community and with the natural environment. The enemy of the family is not the police (Young’s complex attitude toward the slain cop gives the film some ambiguity) but a free-floating rapaciousness whose representatives are the power company, the news media, and the Bush Administration.

The mix of primitivism and sophistication in Greendale is striking. Foregrounding his own presence as artist and off-screen narrator, Young breaks the film into 10 titled sections, each accompanied by a Young/Crazy Horse song that serves as musical score, choric comment, and overdubbed dialogue for the on-screen characters. At the tempo of these songs, Young’s delivery is usually slower than normal conversation would be ("What’s Grandpa doing on TV? [Pause.] I’ve got his dinner in the car"); the forced synchronization creates a stylized effect that’s both charming and menacing. Young uses a sketchbook to frame and link the episodes, dissolving, for instance, from a hand-drawn picture of an art-gallery sign to a shot of the gallery front itself (making the static scene seem to pop into life, in the manner of the picture-book dissolves in Meet Me in St. Louis). The hand-held grainy images suggest a home movie in their unselfconscious amateurism. Young invokes past technologies (at one point he sings, "Jed’s life flashed before him like a black-and-white Super-8/He heard the sound of the future on a scratchy old 78") and enlists them in his critique of corporate media, which are represented in the film by an intrusive TV-news crew and by the state-of-the-art disembodiment of CNN screens and streaming-video Web pages.

Greendale is a simple film, with simple ideas, but it’s also an abstract film whose ideas are general. Young is always showing us a thing and making us aware of the larger category for the thing. But sometimes he refuses to show why he is showing something. It’s a simple matter for him to shoot people sitting on beds in rooms watching Nature Channel–type programs. But what the images of wildlife mean to him, what it means to have these particular characters look at them, what it means to have them framed within the TV screen and to set that screen within a visual and dramatic space that’s clearly American (or Greendalean) — these are questions that he refrains from answering, letting the audience participate in making the film. The final song ("Be the Rain") exhorts us: "We’ve got a job to do/We’ve got to save Mother Earth" But then there are scenes where the film leaves didacticism behind. It’s striking how little Young shows of the killing on the highway: the sudden fragmentation of montage alludes to familiar suspense strategies, but the fragmentation goes so far that the scene becomes abstract and hard to read, expressionistic rather than suspenseful, transcribing panic. The memorial service for the policeman is remarkable for its directness. There’s no satirical intent: Young shows the ritual as the participants would like to see it.

Young’s visual style is, for the most part, unadorned (though he’s not above using digital post-production effects in the scenes with a red-jacketed hipster Satan), but at moments he announces himself as a visual lyricist. His few camera flourishes are dry and expressive: in a cemetery scene, the camera pans across the skyline at dusk to end on a close-up of the policeman’s black-veiled, embittered widow. Greendale isn’t just a didactic work but also a personal notebook, as welcome for its smallness of scale and its closeness of observation as for its intransigence.

Issue Date: March 26 - April 1, 2004
Back to the Movies table of contents
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group