Greendale (2003) is an imaginary biography of the Green family in the rural town of Greendale. Director & rocker Neil Young called this a "reverse" film, in that most films are for the eyes with a subsidiary soundtrack for the ears. In Greendale the musical soundtrack is paramount, with a secondary feast for the eyes.
Neil is himself first cameraman for the videography, so functions as scriptwriter, photographer, score composer, resulting in a film that truly reflects his personality. The actors are not professionals, but are Neil's family & friends, but they're so into it they do a wonderful job.
On one level it is "only" a set of music videos arranged like chapters of a book, but there is continuity through each of the song lyrics which recount the life stories of various Green famiy members, among whom Grampa the patriarch, Jed Green the cop killer, & Sun Green the environmentist & peace activist are most memorable.
Besides the various family members, there's also the devil clad in red dancing through the chapters, screwing with the lives of the people of Greendale & by inference with the whole wide world. War, & destruction of the environment, are things that make him happy.
It comes off as an old-time "concept" album but with moving pictures. Lyrics range from quaintly odd to sentimental, but even at its most mawkish, Neil gets away with it by means of his very sincerity. Lyrics include character dialogue, which the actors lip sync; it is otherwise more or less a silent film.
The tunes are occasionally repetitious but in the main range from quite nice to the closing ecology anthem "Be the Rain" which is great. That song may start out as a whiny whinging liberal plaint, but all too soon I was pulled into it & singing the choras along with Sun Green, "a goddess in the planet war."
The stories told range from satiric to deadly earnest. Neil's songs are sometimes poetic ("Sing a song for depressed angels falling from above") elsetimes scan so badly they scarsely seem like professional compositions, though never failing to charm. The gloomy sensuality of "The Bandit" is one of the winners.
It all comes off as slightly more than a collection of music videos, but rather less than an authentic feature film. For Neil Young fans it is perfect because the music is purely him. For film fans more broadly, it should prove to be a very worthwhile experiment.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl