Neil Young completists, rock historians, and fans of underground cinema, gather ye round! Something rare and off-kilter is going down, and you're not going to want to miss it. For fifty years, Neil Young has been writing, recording, and performing in numerous genres of music, both as a solo act as well as with various groups; however, while most people can recognize some of his tunes; such as "Cinnamon Girl," "Heart of Gold," and "Ohio;" few are the individuals who are versed in his film catalog. This weekend, the Cinefamily, a Los Angeles nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the art and community of cinema, will be showcasing a series of films by and about Neil Young.
The series, called Shakey Fest, is named after Bernard Shakey, Young's filmmaking pseudonym, and it features a newly restored director's cut of Human Highway. The new cut of Highway, a post-apocalyptic musical comedy that was shot in 1982 and co-directed with Dean Stockwell, recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Once Hadrian Belove, the Executive Director and one of the co-founders of Cinefamily, became aware of the restoration, he contacted the film's distributor in the hope of featuring it in a film festival devoted to Shakey's works.
Human Highway will screen off site at the historic Vista Theatre. Cinefamily's home base, the former site of the historic Silent Movie Theatre, will screen the rest of the programming, which includes Solo Trans, a concert film shot by Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude, Being There) and Neil Young Trunk Show, a documentary by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia), as well as six films shot by Mr. Shakey, himself.
The content of Shakey's films range from the fairly straightforward documentation of Young's concerts and tours, as in Rust Never Sleeps, The Muddy Track, Journey Through the Past, and The Monsanto Years to avant garde and raw filmmaking reminiscent of the work of underground / cult filmmaker Jon Moritsugu (mind, Bernard Shakey's work predates that of Moritsugu's earliest offerings).
While some of Shakey's narrative work features recognizable names such as Dennis Hopper and Devo (as in, the band), stylistically, they are likely as over-the-top and far from mainstream as audiences will ever encounter. Thematically, they tend to deal with some of the same social and environmental issues that Young has been known to sing about.
The opportunity to see any film by or about Neil Young in a theater is a rare experience, but a whole festival dedicated to his films may, indeed, be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
For a full list of the films and showtimes of Shakey Fest, click here.