During 2005 Neil Young had gone through and survived an operation to deal with a brain aneurysm. This near death experience really clouds his performance in this film and his music. I don't mean that in a bad way either; he is at his best in Heart of Gold. The performances featured in this film by Jonathan Demme (Married to the Mob, Philadelphia) were shot in August 2005, just days before his surgery, during two concerts at Nashville's famous Ryman auditorium (home of the Grand Old Opry for over 3 decades). It is especially interesting that Young and Demme decided to film at this location in that like Young, the Ryman is old, weathered, difficult at times, and has made many comebacks during its days. Young plays Hank Williams Sr.'s guitar, which had not been used on Ryman's stage since 1951, and surrounds himself with talented musicians such as Emmylou Harris, his wife Pegi, Spooner Oldham, and Rick Rosas. The music played during these shows is mostly that from his critically acclaimed "Harvest Moon" release, but he also does play some of his older well-known classics, such as, "Old Man", "Harvest Moon", "One of These Days", and "Comes A Time". Despite being a 'live' documentary of Young in concert, Heart of Gold turns out to be as emotional, intimate and revealing as any on-screen performance you will see. Due to his age and wealth of experience Young has much to share with his audience and is not afraid to open up, musically and when he is speaking in between songs, to them. Part of the beauty of the film has to be credited to director Jonathan Demme. His simple camera work and not stuffing too many behind-the-scenes interviews or scenes in the film really allows the music to take centre stage and be the focus. If you are a Neil Young fan or a fan of music in general then this is a must see.
-Bonus song: "He Was the King"
-Rehearsal diaries, narrated by director Jonathan Demme
-Six in-depth featurettes: Fellow Travelers, Cruising with Neil, These Old Guitars, Cruising With the Players, Finishing Touches, Warming Up With Neil and the Jubilee Singers
-Blast from the past: 1971 Neil Young performance on the Johnny Cash Show