Helmer unspools 'The Neil Young Truck Show'

With concert movies like “Stop Making Sense” and “Storefront Hitchcock,” and such soundtrack-driven pics as “Something Wild” and last year’s “Rachel Getting Married,” music has become such a major presence in Jonathan Demme’s films that, like the title character in “Rachel,” love her or hate her — you can’t ignore her.

“Music and cinema: it’s just the greatest marriage to me,” the director says. “I’ve got to have a rich musical dimension if I’m going to be attracted to (a project).”

His newest film, “The Neil Young Truck Show,” is Demme’s second concert film with Neil Young, following 2006’s largely acoustic “Heart of Gold,” and continues the director’s growing predilection for performance and documentary work.

Demme calls “Trunk Show” “a homemovie” and declares it “the funniest project ever.” Filmed over two nights in 2007 at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pa., primarily with handheld cameras, the show highlights Young’s ferocious electric guitar chops, including a 23-minute on “No Hidden Path.”

“I like to warn people that if you aren’t into Neil Young and you’re not into serious electric guitar, don’t come,” says Demme, who notes almost proudly that 40 people walked out during an early screening. “But then we got a standing ovation from 1,440,” he adds.

Demme introduced a free outdoor showing of the film at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 14. Next up is the Woodstock (N.Y) Film Festival, Sept. 30-Oct. 4, where Demme will present the film. AFI Fest, which runs Oct. 30-Nov. 7 in Los Angeles, will screen “Trunk Show” at one of its gala evenings with Neil Young (and possibly Demme) in attendance.

All of this festival activity is, of course, an effort to drum up a buyer for “Trunk Show.” “We don’t have an illusion that this is something that can move into a movie theater and play for weeks,” Demme says, acknowledging the tough times facing docus. “I’m hoping we’ll have some great moment in theaters, but I know full well this is a cable and DVD play.” Demme is already prepping the DVD, which will include eight songs not seen in the 82-minute theatrical version.

Additionally, Demme is thinking about another film with Young to complete the trilogy: “I just feel that the physics lead to a third movie.” he says.

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