Year Of The Horse

on October 08, 1997 by Kim Williamson
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   Although those who've become ardent fans of Neil Young and Crazy Horse through their many albums since "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" in 1969 on through 1996's "Broken Arrow" might well love this documentary that primarily records (onto Super-8 and 16mm) the band's 1996 tour of America and Europe, moviegoers only modestly or less enamored of such ditties as "Cinnamon Girl" and "Like a Hurricane" could find this something of a sit. In wanting to make a movie that's "100 percent Crazy Horse," Jim Jarmusch ("Dead Man") has made a film of the group that's somewhere well down in the two-digit range.
   He shows great affectation for Young and his band offstage and onstage; performances of songs blessedly run full-length, with little commentary via camera cuts (though the visuals of a now 50-something Young attired in shorts and dark socks onstage, looking like an aged Macintosh dweeb, provides its own message). It's the behind-the-scenes sections in which the film disappoints. Capturing a unique moment in time, "Woodstock" and "Monterey Pop" had a built-in electricity; "Year of the Horse" needs deep insight into Young's creative drive and into the personalities of his bandmates to have equal impact.
   But moviegoers will leave the theatre knowing virtually nothing more about Crazy Horse and Young than when they went in; the most interesting dialogue is provided by an on-camera appearance by Jarmusch himself. Although the addition of footage of 1976 and 1986 tours (filmed by Bernard Shakey) adds some grace notes, "Year of the Horse" is a pleasant but uncompelling historical curio.    Directed and written by Jim Jarmsuch. Produced by L.A. Johnson. An October Films release. Documentary. Rated R for language and drug content. Running time: 108 min. Screened at the Toronto fest.
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