Step right up, friends, for a dose of good ol’fashioned self-indulgent rock star movie making.
Yessiree Bob, if Dylan could make “Reynoldo & Clara” and Morrison “HWY: An American Pastoral,” and John Mellancamp and others have taken their shots, why shouldn’t Neil Young get around to one? Get his movie-savvy new lady love Daryl Hannah to “write” and direct it.
Jonathan Demme’s dead, so Young’s number one fan, the fellow who made something like 47 documentaries about the iconoclastic Canadian country rocker, wasn’t available.
“Paradox” is sort of a cinematic flip book companion piece to Young’s “Paradox” album. And it’s mess, son.
Even getting into the whole mismatched film stocks, impressionistic vibe Hannah tries to weave out of the footage, this fails.
Random close-ups of sheep, caterpillars and crickets, improvised recitations and some pretty representative Young music, when they drop the pretense of this “Outlaws on the mountain, mining for gold” in a steam-punk plugged-in version of the New Old West.
Lovely cinematography — time-lapse sunsets, sunrises, Neil loaded down like a highwayman who’s lost his horse, trudging through snow, geese on the river and colts nuzzling each other in the corral, steam engines and busted telephones.
The Nelson Brothers (Willie’s boys, in Neil’s “Paradox” band) exchange witticisms, dolled up as the desperadoes “Jailtime” and “The Particle Kid,” in an outhouse where sandpaper passes for Charmin.
“Law and order? ANARCHY rules!”
“That’s an oxymoron!”
“What’d you CALL me?”
Other members of the band, basically Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real recruited for this project, play cowpokes and camp cooks.
None of it makes so much as a lick of sense, though the lived-in looking Old West town looks right, and Willie shows up for a cameo (He voices-over the opening narration, too.). Willie’s kid singing “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” by the campfire is magical.
When we get to the recording session set up in a tent, with all the comforts of Sound City or Nashville, and on into concert scenes, you’d hope that Neil would lose the brand-new gunbelt and six-shooters and the dreams of bank holdups with Willie. Nope.
But as the man says, “Sometimes things gotta go south a’fore they go north.”
MPAA Rating: unrated, guns, scatological humor
Cast: Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Lucas Nelson, Micah Nelson, Tato Melgar
Credits: Written and directed by Daryl Hannah. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:18