You are Neil Young. How nice. You are the idol of the rock critics and the overly-ponytailed dads. You are the “living legend,” one of the most lauded, extolled and otherwise acclaimed artists of your generation. You are — or have been — at the forefront of some of the most important cultural movements of your lifetime. You are a rapidly-aging 65-year old inebriate. You are mostly, and perhaps nearly entirely, dead. You are 230 pounds of flesh, parked poolside, sizzling semi-conscious beneath the California sun. The shit-blasted sluggard, so inset as to be immovable, so settled as to be one with the fold-out lawn chair.
You are jowls-gone-full and lipidous droops galore. You are a wasted gaze lost deep behind over-size prescription sunglasses. You are a sexagenarian’s generous scrotal swell, so loose and bulbous, now curled within a black-and-russet Speedo. You are a vast and sweaty chest, revealed via perpetually-unclasped housecoat. You arc and bend, you distend into an immense paunch, upon which all manner of snack-type indulgence and pornographic magazine perch. You are an enormous face — off-red and terrible — the final end of countless meals and provisions. And behind the face, you are a mind slipped head-long into decadence and decay.
You are a sprawling landscape, a wasteland no longer tenanted by real desire. You abide. You list. You are hours gone long and days just gone. You are lights out. You are taps dry. A memory, an echo. A trace, an outline. The autumn. The night. Choose-your-stock-metaphor. You are a brothel, on fire, on a very distant television screen, on mute.
You are over it. You are utterly and completely free from those terrible exhaustions that once compelled you. Yes, you are free from those once-seemingly inextinguishable longings you held fast — when you were young, and you were hot, and you were aggrieved; when you spoke with gravity and moved with gravity, because you never once thought to question your sense of entitlement to greatness or significance; when you sought validation, often with desperation, and always from all things outside yourself; when you were still many, many years from the understanding that real affirmation — real, final, contentment — can only truly come from within, for good and for ill.
You are Neil Young. You are bloated fingers dangling knuckle-deep in lukewarm pool water, now inching gently toward the shrill disturbance of the telephone. You are a calm, venous hand now lazily clutching said phone. You are the suggestion of an ear on a huge canvas of head, into which the voice of the acclaimed, and highly motivation-oriented, film director Jonathan Demme now pours and enthuses, “Neil, buddy, we gotta do this. Let’s make this concert film. It’s gonna be great, Neil. It’s gonna be just like old times.”
You are a tinny wheeze, now creaking, now vibrating, through half-cracked lips, “Awwww, fffffuck it. I guess.”
“Neil Young Trunk Show,” directed by Jonathan Demme, is playing at the Cinematheque until April 8 (★★.5 out of ★★★★★)