STRANGE PARADISE: Year of the Horse


By: Addison Wylie

Wylie Writes’ coverage of TIFF’s Jim Jarmusch retrospective began with a mixed bag of shorts, and ends with a mixed bag of concert cutouts and behind-the-scenes glimpses.

It’s undoubtable Jarmusch captures a raw vision of Neil Young and Crazy Horse with his scattershot Year of the Horse.  The filmmaker catalogues footage from unique perspectives;  the performances are especially visceral if occasionally obscured.  He switches between different film stocks (16mm, Hi-8 video, and Super 8) to aesthetically add variety as well, giving different eyes from around wherever the freewheeling band is “tearing it up”.  It’s a decision that never settles, but it also gives the movie goer the impression that they should always be on their toes during this whirlwind of “whatever”.

Young and his bandmates don’t feel a need to play towards Jim’s camera, and even tease Jarmusch about some of his interviewing tactics.  One musician even jokes around that no matter how many questions Jim asks, the filmmaker won’t be able to sum up thirty years of total insanity.  It’s funny to us in the audience because it’s true.

Though Year of the Horse stands on its own in regards to how it presents famous music and the peculiar personalities that come attached, it’s a concert film that only Jarmusch truly understands.

The film is fairly sloppy.  Jarmusch glues older tense sessions with photographs and terribly framed interviews.  What made him want to shoot those band interviews in a cruddy laundry room?  Or, is that a kitchen on a children’s campground?

Then, Jarmusch throws on-the-road B-roll on top, making portions of the movie resemble something that would play in a karaoke parlour.

The filmmaker is wise to leave lengthy songs in tact, letting each repetition and atmospheric rumble play out.  And, Jarmusch – surprisingly – knows how to communicate these scenes to the audience.  We see the band having a blast performing to fans as they sweat passion.  But, that distance between us and the dazed musicians when they’re off stage gives us a disconnect that causes us to lose an element of investment.

Seeing Strange Paradise’s screening of Year of the Horse is a no-brainer for fans of Crazy Horse: uh…yeah-huh!  Catching Jarmusch’s enigmatic concert flick on a big screen with TIFF’s state-of-the-art sound system is how the film should be seen.  There’s enough here for newbies to have head-bobbing fun with, but Year of the Horse is far from perfect.

Year of the Horse screens at the TIFF BELL Lightbox on Tuesday, August 12 at 9:15 p.m.


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