Friday, November 08, 2013

Year of the Horse

Directed by Jim Jarmusch, Year of the Horse is a documentary film about Neil Young and his band Crazy Horse during their 1996 tour where Jarmusch follows them on the road where they talk about the band’s history and their relationship that includes old footage from past tours. The documentary is a bit of a road-diary as well as an overlook of sorts into the career of the band through good times and bad times as the result is a fascinating yet unconventional film from Jim Jarmusch.

The film is a mixture of a retrospective look into the career of Neil Young and his band Crazy Horse, that consists of bassist Billy Talbot, drummer Ralph Molina, and guitarist/organist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro, as well as a road-diary of the band’s tour in 1996. With director Jim Jarmusch maintaining a low-key presence to capture the band’s performance and their off-stage life along with interviews. The film also includes interview with the band’s manager Elliot Roberts, Neil’s father Scott, and a few roadies as they all express their opinion on the band and how it’s managed to endure despite some bumps that includes the tragic death of original rhythm guitarist Danny Whitten in 1972.

Shot in different film formats ranging from 16mm, Super 8 film, and Hi-8 video as well as some archival footage from the 1970s and 1980s. Jarmusch creates something that is a mixture of things where he also makes some visual collages with the help of editor Jay Rabinowitz to showcase the band’s music to play with some of the images that goes on in the road. Most notably a collage of footage from three different shows from 1976, 1986, and 1996 in three different places that all play a version of Like a Hurricane. It’s among one of the many highlights of the film as there’s also footage of the band just being cool where Young acts like one of the guys instead of a band leader. Yet, there’s also a scene from a 1986 show where Young and Talbot are arguing over an arrangement that didn’t get played.

With the help of co-cinematographers L.A. Johnson, Steve Onuska, and Arthur Rosato, Jarmusch aims for a look that feels very personal but also ragged to play into the music of the band while there’s not many hits that are played in favor of cuts that fans love. With the sound work of John Hausmann, the musical performance sound amazing as well as the mixture of visual collages where Jarmusch wanted to showcase how unique Neil Young is with a band as raw and stripped-down is as Crazy Horse. While the presentation isn’t for everyone where Jarmusch defies convention by not divulging much into the band’s history. He does create something that does feel like a portrait of a band told by someone who is a fan of the music.

Year of the Horse is a superb film from Jim Jarmusch about Neil Young and Crazy Horse. While the film is very unconventional in its portrait of the band by not going into any traditional documentary narratives. It is still a very lively and fun film through the footage and concert performances that Jarmusch presents as well as into the lives of Young and his band. In the end, Year of the Horse is an excellent film from Jim Jarmusch.

Jim Jarmusch Films: Permanent Vacation - Stranger Than Paradise - Down by Law - Mystery Train - Night on Earth - Dead Man - Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai - Coffee & Cigarettes - Broken Flowers - The Limits of Control - Only Lovers Left Alive - Paterson - Gimme Danger - (The Dead Don't Die) - The Auteurs #27: Jim Jarmusch

© thevoid99 2013

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