Year of the Horse

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Year: 1997
Country: USA
Running time: 106 mins

Production co: Shakey Pictures
Producers: L.A. Johnson
Photography: L.A. Johnson, Jim Jarmusch
Editor: Jay Rabinowitz
Sound: Tim Mulligan
Music: Neil Young, Crazy Horse

Ralph Molina
Frank (Poncho) Sampredo
Billy Talbot
Neil Young

Festivals: Toronto, New York, London 1997; Rotterdam 1998
“Neil Young, bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina have been together since the year dot. Guitarist Frank (Poncho) Sampedro is still known as ‘the new guy’, since he only came into the band in 1974. They perform nine songs here, ranging from familiar classics like ‘Tonight’s the Night’ and ‘Like a Hurricane’ to more recent compositions. Noted for its huge, driving sound (which Dolby recording captures superbly), Crazy Horse jams through its set with the same throbbing intensity that they’ve had for nearly three decades of collaboration. Jarmusch’s document bills itself as ‘made to be played loud.’

“Occasionally cutting in footage from 1976 (shot by a British crew) and 1986 (shot by Young himself under the pseudonym Bernard Shakey), Year of the Horse consists mostly of concert footage from the 1996 European tour along with glimpses of rehearsals and backstage interviews with the band and Young’s dad, journalist Scott Young.

“The band members contend that their virtually life-long history together can’t possibly be captured in one movie, especially one made by an arty hipster New York director (to which Jarmusch responds with incredibly edited treatment of the climactic ‘Like a Hurricane’ using a strobe-like flicker film technique from the 60s avant-garde). Jarmusch’s general approach is that of a fan much more than a historian. Shot partly on 16mm but mostly – as the opening credits attest – ‘proudly filmed in 8mm,’ the film effects an extremely low-tech aesthetic which produces the look and feel of a fan’s bootleg. — Kay Armatage, Toronto Film Festival 1997

Year of the Horse makes it clear that the music of Neil Young and Crazy Horse comes from the whole band. Together they create a singular sound that, in the same way John Coltrane kept jazz alive and evolving, keeps rock ‘n’ roll alive through its emotional connection to these musicians while they’re playing it.” — Jim Jarmusch

“There’s an intensity of effort about them that can’t help but impress itself on the watcher.” — Scott Young