Demme, whose previous concert films include the landmark "Stop Making Sense" featuring The Talking Heads, revealed at the same Sundance panel that the stylings of his latest musical documentary are modeled after the impact of Young's music, commenting, "Neil's lyrics evoke images in my head." With those images as a catalyst, Demme presents Young's concerts more as a series of song performances, definitively breaking between each tune, rather than a showcase of a single event from opening to closing numbers. Instead of producing a disjointed feel, the effect is an emphasis on the individual song, with onstage background sets and lighting tailored to fit the mood of each number. At the same time, Demme is respectful enough of the lyrical and historical dimensions of Young's oeuvre to avoid imposing his personal interpretation of the "images" derived by the musician's lyrics, instead allowing the music to inspire on its own.
The concert film's unifying force is, of course, Neil Young himself. Long hailed as a troubadour, Young's introduction of certain songs by way of storytelling -- such as the acquisition of Hank Williams' guitar before performing "This Old Guitar" -- serves as the connecting points between his classic and brand-new material. Anecdotes about his agrarian childhood in Canada and his late father, to whom the performances are dedicated, as well as a solo performance of "The Old Laughing Lady," with neither his band nor a live audience present, further personalize the mesmerizing and touching narrative that weaves throughout "Heart of Gold." Featuring Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ben Keith, Spooner Oldham, Rick Rosas, Karl T. Himmel, Chad Cromwell and Wayne Jackson. Directed by Jonathan Demme. Produced by Jonathan Demme and Ilona Herzberg. A Paramount Classics release. Documentary. Rated PG for some drug- related lyrics. Running time: 103 min