"The Greendale film was shot on Super8 and given a decidedly 'green' spin, Neil Young's
raw nerve of a semi-experimental/semi-feature length music video
Greendale is literal, unabashedly liberal, and saved by its energy,
earnestness, and Young's electric song score. Inspired and rejuvenated,
like a few of our better artists have been, by 9/11, Young contributes
to the soundtrack for Greendale some of his best music with Crazy Horse
since their eclectic album "Sleeps with Angels".
Greendale follows the travails of the Green family. Grandpa is outraged
by the reductions of freedoms and intrusion of the media, while son Earl
is a struggling painter who gets the devil's specs and Earl's daughter,
Sun (Sarah White), is an activist in the Julia Butterfly mold who
headlines the film's best song: the rousing, anthemic "Be the Rain,"
played over a Thornton Wilder set.
A cop-killing, a symbolic protest, a haunting vignette in a ratty motor
inn all mark the peaks and valleys of the picture, through which runs
Young's absolute dedication to his art, whatever the cost. The curious
thing about Greendale, however, is that despite the topicality of
its issues, the prevailing feeling evoked is one of a sort of
sympathetic nostalgia: the feeling that the sixties are flyblown
regardless of what feels like Young's single- handed desire to keep them
It's well and good to campaign for the right causes, but the reality of
our post- modern age seems more in line with ennui and ironic
detachment--maladies of smug superiority that tend to throw what by all
rights appears to be genuine conviction into a quaint context. Greendale
is on-the-sleeve enough to ultimately prove a little embarrassing."
From New York Press an incredibly perceptive review titled "Good Folk: An edifying tour through Neil Young’s country – and Ours" by critic Armond White:
"Whatever version of Greendale you encounter, it earns a place alongside the more ambitious expressions of small town living: Winesburg, Ohio; Our Town; even Altman’s Popeye. It’s both recognizable and idiosyncratic through Young’s scrutiny of our most mundane habits and setting them to music that kicks in even when the imagery perplexes. Greendale presents contemporary American crisis as seen through the characters of a white farming community.
In Greendale, Young locates the unofficial territory where his outrage and his hope are not so strange. His defiantly unfashionable position gives voice to those Americans who lately feel completely unenfranchised–enraged by al Qaeda and Tom Ridge and isolated from Fox Cable News as well as the Nation. That this community has rarely been seen on the screen in our so-called indie era is a sobering realization. But it gives the Greendale movie surprising charm.
The hominess of Greendale should be less troubling than Are You Passionate?. Its assessment of how folk-art expression (pop music, home movies) compliments our political and spiritual ideas and amounts to a revelation. Not many contemporary artists have responded to the post-9/11 question of how to make relevant art. Young proposes an answer by emulating the simplicity of folk art: the forcefulness of style, technique, purpose that can be felt in every version of Greendale. Two authentic moments stand out.
On "Sun Green," Young sings, "No one could explain it/It just got great reviews." That sizes up the current tendency to praise superficial product regardless of its content or intention. Young critiques the political acquiescence that has infected every aspect of popular culture, replacing actual thinking, ever since the late-80s triumph of capitalism (what some people like to call the fall of communism). And the glorious "Grandpa’s Interview" offers a daring bromide: "It ain’t an honor to be on tv/And it ain’t a duty either"– blessed curmudgeonliness.
Greendale’s a modest movie, but it’s also heroic."
From The Globe and Mail review by JASON ANDERSON (26 March 2004):
"Young's approach to the visuals can be astonishingly literal-minded - the
phrase "a crow flew across the sky" is accompanied by just what you'd
expect - yet he also brings clarity to songs that were bafflingly cryptic
in their audio-only form. Likewise, musical performances that seemed
excessively sloppy or meandering (yes, even for Crazy Horse) turn out to be
just perfect for the ragged and dyspeptic nature of the work as a whole.
While this is hardly the first time that Young has made a virtue out of
roughness, Greendale still transcends its limitations with great success.
Unlike anything you've ever seen (or maybe even wanted to), Young's movie
is furious, fascinating and utterly fresh."
From The Toronto Star review by Geoff Pevere (26 March 2004) "Young makes joyful noise":
Young's songs provide more than the narrative and dialogue: They represent
the spirit of joyful noise that makes everyone rise up and dance.
If this sounds idiosyncratic, discordant and decidedly off-the-beam, it is,
but then again so is Young's music - and Greendale is nothing if not a pure
Neil Young experience. (It's simple: If you don't dig the music, pass on
the movie.) Uncompromisingly amateurish,alternately naive and spooky,
Greendale revels in the rough-textured images of Super-8 in the same way
that Young and Crazy Horse have always exalted in the tumult of electrified
It's a way of being heard in a world filled with meaningless noise. In this
sense it is a uniquely and even inspirationally personal work -
particularly if you're down with the movie's message that personal
expression is mass culture's Public Enemy No. 1.
Keep on rockin' for a free world.
From The Boston Globe review by Ty Burr (26 March 2004) "YOUNG'S POLITICS DON'T PLAY OUT":
proudly handcrafted movie, overall, and good for Neil Young.
At the same time, beware of stoner rock stars talking politics. No matter
where you stand on the spectrum, the ecological/ anticorporate idealism of
"Greendale" is so vague as to be insulting to anyone past the
backpack-and-Birkenstocks stage of life. You want to rail against the
globalist oligarchy? Fine, Neil - name some names. Offer ideas other than
chaining Sun to a lobby statue while she barks empty slogans through a
megaphone. Tell your fans to do something more than be the rain."
"The message of the story is uplifting and so is the notion that Neil had something positive to say and was willing to share it at a time when most of the cultural focuses on negative aspects. I was so impressed by the music and the nobleness of the message that I chose not to download it for free off the Internet and instead bought the CD, although in the interest of full disclosure, the fact that you get a DVD of Neil's acoustic performance of Greendale is what sealed the deal for me."
"'Part Thornton Wilder and part John Lennon, it's a fictional tale that allows Young to address issues that have long interested him.'
- - Robert Hilburn, Los Angeles Times
- - Elvis Mitchell, New York Times
'A topical film in a year in which most American directors remain allergic to presenting a political point of view.'
- - Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune
'A TRIUMPH - Splendiferously primitive...
achieves a Sufi-like climax.'
- - J. Hoberman, The Village Voice
"Charming and moving... very likely the peak of his career thus far. One must hand it to Young for his ambitious achievement. GREENDALE grows richer the more one visits it. HALLELUJAH FOR A TRULY INDEPENDENT FILM!" -GREGORY WEINKAUF, NEW TIMES
'I loved this film... so honest, spontaneous and unique. Neil Young is a genius.'
- - Cynthia Parsons, In Style Magazine
- - Eddie Cockrell, Variety
"Raffishly lovable! This raggedy little movie begins to cast a spell... A burst of idealism and energy." -MICHAEL WILMINGTON, CHICAGO TRIBUNE
"Poignant and heartbreaking! Young's voice is a marvel... Sitting through 'Greendale' in a Dolby-equipped theater, at high volume with bone-penetrating bass, is an ideal way for Young fans to experience the rustic grandeur of the master's latest album, a serious achievement." -JOE BROWN, SF CHRONICLE
'Entrancing and moving...
a minor masterpiece.'
- - Mark Rabinowitz, indieWIRE
"MASTERPIECE!... Those who tumble into Young's allusive, passionately political fable are in for an adventure."-RAY PRIDE, NEW CITY TIMES, CHICAGO
"A LOW-FI MASTERPIECE!... The perfect marriage of music and images." -GLENN WHIPP, LA DAILY NEWS
"'Greendale' takes Young's creative zeal to expansive heights. It resonates with themes of idealism, a changing of the generational guard and small-town blues." -CHRIS MACIAS, SACRAMENTO BEE
"One of the most potent mergers of music and film that rock has ever produced! A more successful and complete artistic vision than 99% of even the most ambitious videos aired on MTV or VH1. BRAVO, NEIL. LONG MAY YOU RUN!" -JIM DEROGATIS, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES
"PASSION AND IDEALISM! Greendale is a piercing examination of both American and global life that is, at times, critical, nostalgic, and ultimately hopeful, and the music is rockin'!" -AINT-IT-COOL-NEWS.COM
"**** There is a freshness and immediacy to 'Greendale' that is quite startling. It may turn out that a 60's musician has come up with the most socially relevant film of 2004." -CRITICDOCTOR.COM
'One of the most adventurous artists of our day enters new territory and returns with something strangely beautiful.'
- - Glenn Kenny, Premiere Magazine "
"SPLENDID! A touch of Raymond Carver, a hint of Sherwood Anderson... as full of crazy, honest life as anything Neil Young has done." -A.O. SCOTT, NEW YORK TIMES
"Vibrantly colorful... GREENDALE is somewhere between the true-believer sincerity of John Sayles and the oddball eeriness of David Lynch." -KEVIN CRUST, LOS ANGELES TIMES
"While Greendale will not be the highest selling or most critically acclaimed album of 2003, it is -- without a doubt -- the most important album of 2003," -- Thrasher's Wheat
"Shot in glorious Rustavision, of course. I love that blurry particularized home-movie effect." -- Rustie Robert Clark Young