USA – 2003 – 83 MIN – COLOUR - FEATURE - IN ENGLISH
A FILM BY BERNARD SHAKEY (AKA NEIL YOUNG)
In Greendale, Neil Young has made what he calls a “musical novel” which tells the story of a family, the murder of a cop and the evolution of a young girl named Sun Green. Not a concert film, Young himself shot actors on locations on his native Northern California home turf to create his Greendale, a rural town that is a microcosm of a world in crisis.
In essence, GREENDALE is a tale of collective awakening told through ten interlinking songs performed by Young and his longtime amigos Crazy Horse, who never appear in the film, but Neil’s distinctive voice is heard singing the story as well as the dialogue of his lip-synching actors.
It opens on the front porch of the Green family farmhouse, where Grandpa and cousin Jed are reading the morning paper and chatting, as Young begins to reveal his Greendale — "a little love and affection in everything you do – makes the world a better place.” As the story unfolds, a policeman is gunned down and Jed is taken to the jailhouse. A family and a town grieve. Grandpa fatally confronts the media’s intrusive onslaught in times of human misery.
The old man’s granddaughter, Sun Green, moved by Grandpa’s idealism, becomes an activist on the day of his passing – first taking on the energy conglomerate Powerco, then heading off to Alaska to apply her passion to help save the wilderness. The film ends with an inspired, kick-ass performance of a rockin’ humanist anthem that urges us towards the vision: “Save the planet for another day… Be the river as it moves along… Be the Rain.”
In his review of the concert, Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune notes that Greendale is “…stuffed with ideas, in many ways a summation of everything Young has stood for in his fascinating career: the nurturing strength of family, respect for elders, the sacredness of nature and youth, the corrupt invasiveness of political and economic institutions, and the power of a really loud guitar to cut through all the distraction.
Along with the album of Greendale, there is a bonus DVD disc included featuring a live solo acoustic concert Young performed earlier this year at the Vicar St. Theatre in Dublin. The disc includes all the songs from the album, along with commentary from Young on the music, as well as other past favorites.
Greendale has also been rendered as a full length movie, shot on location in Northern California over three weeks by Young, with a cast that includes his wife Pegi Young and longtime collaborator, Ben Keith. Taking, according to the artist, “the script from the songs,” the actors in Greendale lip-synch to the tracks, fashioning what Young calls “a song you can look at.” The film is scheduled for a fall premiere.
Even the release of Greendale is taking an innovative turn. Individual songs are being unveiled at the rate of one a week on Young’s website, www.neilyoung.com, which also highlights extensive additional information on the town’s environs and inhabitants, including a town map, biographies of the major characters and a Green family tree. Neil Young and Crazy Horse, meanwhile, are currently on a barnstorming North American tour, performing the groundbreaking work for concert audiences coast to coast.
“I just let them out,” concludes Young on the music of Greendale, which includes such instant classics as “Falling From Above,” “Bandit” and “Be The Rain.” “I never tried to make things fit together. I just kept on going… continuity wasn’t that important. Then I found out later that the continuity was golden all the way through.”