Even for an artist long obsessed with finding beauty in noise and lyricism in chaos, Greendale sets a new standard for Neil Young. Shot on hand-held Super8 cameras, the film is as grainy, sketchy and nostalgic as a home movie. The script is identical to the soundtrack -- the ten songs that make up the Greendale album, released last August. None of the characters speak; instead they lip-sync to Young's vocals, and their bodies sometimes rock, sometimes sway, to Crazy Horse's churning rhythms.
The plot concerns three generations of the Green family -- their memories, secrets, failings and hopes in a world moving so much faster than their small town ever could. A zoot-suited Satan bops along a sidewalk, a young man shoots a cop, and a young woman carries hay bales up a mountainside (and no, there's no Crazy Horse footage, though Young makes a goofy cameo as Wayne Newton). Along the way, Young gets in his usual digs at the media, corporate corruption, political big brotherism and environmental collapse. And somehow the movie, like the best of Young's elliptical songs, remains faithful to the conflicted emotions and ideas that inspired it.
Unlike Young's other attempts at non-concert films (the screwed-and-mashed southern docu-pic Journey Through the Past and the mondo-bizzaro sci-fi comedy Human Highway), Greendale has a graceful rhythm and unforced realism.
"It's not as vague or otherworldly like things that I might have done in the past," Young says in a phone interview, "where putting images with the songs might have made it too clear in one direction, so you'd be guiding someone away from the possibilities they could have been into. In this case, I feel the picture and the sound work well together, and the one supports the other."
All of which makes Greendale a charming paradox; Young's thematic pretensions are undercut by the innocence of his film techniques (if trying to hold a camera steady as a seagull drifts by qualifies as technique) and the appropriately not-ready-for-prime-time acting of the friends and family who make up the cast.
"These are the people I know, that I can talk to, that will do something like this without having to have a whole bunch of stuff explained or a whole bunch of things worked out," Young explains. "I know their sensibilities and I know who they are, so I know how they are going to fit with these characters. It's gonna be believable if they will say the words that I'm singing."
Greendale opens on Friday, March 5, at the Tivoli (6350 Delmar Boulevard, 314-995-6270) and plays for one week only. -- Roy Kasten
Ménage à Cinq
Because three's a crowd
Architect and philanderer Louis I. Kahn said that art is truly art when it reminds us that nature cannot make what man can make. It's a grand statement, broad enough to account for both beauty and horror in contemporary art, where the work can be a perfect rock sculpture or a pile of blaring televisions buried in magnetic tape.
Ménage à Cinq, the new show at the Mad Art Gallery in Soulard, is a collection of work by five Southern Illinois University Carbondale grad students of various disciplines. The artists are Greg Cochenet, Phil Davis, Fiona Jappy, Baggs McKelvey and Ruth Pringle; their work varies from ceramic agricultural architecture to installations reflecting incarceration. Nature -- human and otherwise -- never looked like this. If you haven't been to Mad Art, the police station that became an art gallery, check out the reception. It's free and runs from 7 to 11 p.m., with a cash bar. Mad Art is at 2727 South 12th Street; call 314-771-8230 or visit www.madartgallery.com. -- Mark Dischinger
David and Attila vs. Goliath
Have the antics of our unelected regime -- terrorism-futures trading and plagiarized term papers masquerading as "intelligence reports" -- so far surpassed satire as to render it obsolete? David Rovics and Attila the Stockbroker will answer that question at the Schlafly Tap Room (2100 Locust Street) at 7:30 p.m.
Delivering his acoustic broadsides in a nasal twang that makes Bob Dylan sound like Nat King Cole, Rovics takes the banner raised by Pete Seeger and Phil Ochs and carries it further down the red-brick road. From Prague to Washington, no big anticapitalist demonstration is complete without a Rovics set. He can dream big ("After the Revolution") or he can get wonky ("IRV," the catchiest song ever written about instant-runoff voting). But he's at his Ochsian best on short, sharp slashes such as "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" and the feminist "Sit Down to Piss."
If Rovics is a hippie who can appeal to punks, Attila the Stockbroker is just the opposite. This British poet/ranter cut his teeth in the late-'70s punk and skinhead scene, tempering his hilarious social surrealism with working-class bluntness. If left-wing satire sets your feet to marching, this evening is as rousing as it gets. Admission is on a "sliding scale" from $5 to $10; call 314-241-2337 for info. -- Jason Toon
Martin Mirkheim has many problems. Perhaps the biggest is his idolization of Daniel Strong, the fictional, allegorical creation of Dr. Luther Waxler. Waxler's self-help philosophy enables Martin to see his worst instincts as his greatest virtues and sends him down a path from daydreaming schmuck to moral ambiguity to the dark side of human nature, in pursuit of a passion (making a movie based on the doctor's book). Search and Destroy, produced by Martin Scorsese and based on the off-Broadway play by Howard Korder, will be shown at 7 p.m. at the Washington University Gallery of Art as part of the "American Art of the 1980s" exhibit (Forsyth and Skinker boulevards, 314-935-4523; free). The film features an ensemble cast in glorified cameo roles and follows in the beloved Hollywood tradition of making movies about the hellish process of con and compromise that is making movies. Like The Big Picture, The Player, S-O-B and Swimming with Sharks, it's more or less a comedy but aspires to be something more. Not to be missed, if only for the pre-Spike Jonze song-and-soft-shoe number by Christopher Walken. -- Jedidiah Ayres