March 19, 2010 at 1:00 am

Tom Long Film Review: 'Neil Young Trunk Show' -- GRADE: B

Review: Frenetic 'Neil Young Trunk Show' biopic is for die-hards

The movie "Neil Young Trunk Show" portrays the singer's eclectic side. (Larry Cragg)

How lucky for Neil Young that in his later years an Oscar-winning director seems to have become obsessed with his music. And how lucky for Neil Young's fans.

"Neil Young Trunk Show" is the second film director Jonathan Demme ("The Silence of the Lambs") has made with Young, the first having been the lovely "Neil Young: Heart of Gold" in 2006.

But while "Heart" concentrated on a celebration of Young as acoustic country-folk balladeer, "Trunk Show" shows Young in all his eclectic (and at times wildly electric) glory.

For serious fans, this is the real Neil, an artist who'll go anywhere his head and hands send him. One minute he's plucking a banjo, the next he's roaring his way through an electric storm, his bleat of a voice struggling atop waves of wondrous noise.

Problem is, "Trunk Show" may leave some of the less-hardened fans behind with its esoteric mix. There are only a few of Young's big hits here -- an acoustic "Cowgirl in the Sand" comes in at the end, a short "Cinnamon Girl" arrives early. For the most part, these are songs only Young purists know, with the literal centerpiece to the 82-minute film being a smoking-frantic 23-minute version of "No Hidden Path."

What the film may lack in humability, though, it certainly makes up in enthusiasm, with Demme coming up with all sorts of bizarre camera angles and Young's quasi-geezer band showing gray hair and power chords definitely can mix.

In the end, Demme is only framing Young, although the frames are certainly nice. But it's the aging, energetic, iconoclastic artist -- bald spot waving as much as his freak flag -- who makes the movie worth watching. Demme has the visuals, but Young has the vision.

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