This False Note's for You

Call it "Neilism": the unblinking acceptance of just about anything Neil Young does, just because it's him doing it. The far-too-cozy alleged documentary Year of the Horse is Neilism at its worst -- Young as the godfather of punk, an iconoclast's iconoclast, going where he wants to without regard for commercial concerns, rockin' out in his crazy-man's outfit of wide-bottomed shorts and floppy flannel shirts. This fabulously pretentious lack of pretentiousness disguises the fact that both Young and his hired Boswell, Jim Jarmusch, benefit from their mutual exercise in filmic hagiography: Young's currency is attested to by a hip director, and a hip director's career is given a boost by the association with an unquestioned legend.

In the film, you get a lot of grainy footage of Young and his Crazy Horse pals essaying their astonishingly bleak, very hard rock, a lot of smirky interviews and little substance. At the beginning of the movie, Jarmusch splays the words "proudly filmed in Super 8" across the screen; nothing illustrates this movie's shaky philosophical underpinnings better than this posturing. At the film's San Francisco Film Festival world premiere earlier this year, the words drew cheers from the audience. But when Jarmusch was later asked how Year of the Horse was recorded, he lapsed into geek talk about digital mixing boards and DATs. Class, here's your essay question: Why is it cool to film the thing crummily but not record it that way? You get extra credit if your answer doesn't include the phrase "it's the music that really matters."

-- Bill Wyman

Year of the Horse: 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 5; 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, June 6. The Rice Media Center, Rice University entrance 8 (University and Stockton), 527-4853. $5; $4 for Rice students and seniors.

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