Neil Young is an artist who just won’t quit. Fiercely intelligent, scarily prolific for a man in his sixties and still angry, he is responsible for some of the most stirringly emotive, exciting, innovative music ever laid down on disc. A member of Buffalo Springfield, CSNY and, of course, a solo artist of high regard, his back catalogue is filled with rousing highlights, spectacular lows (even now, ‘trans’ is remarkably unlistenable) and inspirational gold for aspiring musicians. Here, this most beloved of artists tackles the Iraq war along with Crosby, Stills and Nash in what must be one of the bravest tours ever undertaken in America.
CSNY Deja Vu is one of those documentaries that inspires pride, disgust, fear and loathing more than most. Far better than the painfully biased diatribe of Michal Moore’s ‘Farenheit 9/11, this movie still has an agenda – let’s get that out of the way from the off – but it does at least acknowledge the voice of the pro-war group, especially during the furious reaction to ‘let’s impeach the president’ filmed in Atlanta which sees people marching out of the arena in high dudgeon offering up a variety of arguments from the purely reasonable (“artists shouldn’t abuse their position”) to the expletive-filled and unpleasant (“he’s a son of a b****, I’d like to kick his teeth in!”).
Relatively short, the film does a good job of getting across the motivation behind the tour and offers generous insight into Neil’s continued fire and passion and, like any good documentary, it inspires opinion – whether you agree with the overall point or not – and for those viewing from outside the USA it is a fascinating insight into the multitude of voices raised for, and against, the war and the Presidency evoking, not guffaws, but real empathy for the people who seem trapped inside a political system they seem to neither understand nor love.
With hilarious press quotes running through the film ranging from the gently positive to the outrageously (and unprofessionally) negative, the film documents both the tour and the inspiration behind the new music through news clips and archive footage and it’s also interesting to see the comparisons drawn between Iraq and Vietnam with a decent number of commentators from both sides of the argument weighing in. It’s an inspiring and interesting film and a must for fans of Neil Young as well as those interested in politics and it warrants a purchase on DVD for those reasons alone.
However, there is much more to admire here. An exclusive interview with Neil Young (who also directed the film) offers more insight into the movie while a variety of music clips (all ten videos from ‘Living with war’ as well as a couple of CSNY clips) make up for the lack of complete music tracks within the film itself. In all, the features offer exceptional value for money and you’d be hard pressed to find a more generous selection of extras coupled with a documentary.
There are of course some reservations – like all politically orientated films you need to approach this with an open mind and be prepared to follow it up with your own research- but then with Neil, whose stated motive is to make people feel and think – that’s probably the point. Moreover the lack of complete tracks in the film itself is quite often irritating as you yearn to hear more of this groundbreaking tour in full. However, if you want to understand what makes these amazing musicians keep on coming back, this is an excellent insight into their mindset and an intelligent, if left-slanted, meditation on war and politics. Recommended.