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Journalist Thomas Boujut signs a poignant documentary on Neil Young, known as “The Loner”, broadcast from April 22 at 10:25 p.m. on Arte.tvthen on the chain.

Testimonials, interviews, rare images, excerpts from concerts: the journalist director Thomas Boujut signs the portrait of a rock monument, activist, hero, and above all a tireless and creative musician. Full of nuggets and intimate moments, this documentary is essential for all those who want to discover the different facets of rocker.

You are a longtime fan of Neil Young. How do you view this atypical artist?

I’m a longtime fan, yes and no. When I was younger, I snubbed him for a long time, my idols being Springsteen and Dylan and the Stones. Of course I had several of his records, Harvest, like everyone else, and then the live Weld, released in 1991, which I had bought when it came out simply because it covered “Blowin’ in the Wind”, by Dylan. The soundtrack of Dead Man, Jarmusch’s film, was also one of the triggers… But it took me time to become a fan. For example when, in 2003, the same evening, Springsteen and Neil Young were both playing in Paris but not in the same place, I did not hesitate for a single second to go to the Stade de France to see my hero from New Jersey. I still thought it was quite stupid to organize these two concerts on the same evening in Paris, knowing that many spectators would be frustrated. It was a click, and I caught up by buying me all his discography. Today, I surely listen to it more than the others. Especially thanks to his website, where I keep discovering stuff. But I also like the character, gruff and uncompromising. Like when he threatened to cancel his visit to Hyde Park, where he shared the poster with Dylan, because of the sponsor, Barclays, involved in the exploitation of fossil fuels.

Was making such a documentary for Arte a challenge? You had access to quite a few rare or unpublished archives…

No, it wasn’t a challenge, it was more a responsibility, and a joy, of course. It was necessary to make a film at the height of the man. The real difficulty was more to hold, in the 52 minutes of the film, the multiple facets of the Loner. We found archives in four parts of the world, spanning the last fifty years, and of course we had to, like a heartbreak, cut and cut… At the start of the project, of course, we raised the question to do an interview. But it didn’t seem necessary to me given the wealth of the interview archives that we had. The strength of the archives is to show the constancy of its discourse and its commitments. And then it was the Covid period, so it was impossible to go to the United States. The only regret is not having shaken his hand, and not having had my 45-laps of “For What It’s Worth” signed by Buffalo Springfield.

You are a journalist in the written press, rock and cinema…

Before making documentaries or being a journalist, I always worked on TV, first odd jobs, then sound engineer. In early 2000, tired of hearing other people’s questions through my headphones, I decided to ask them myself and become a journalist. First for film shows, such as “Le Journal du cinema”, from Canal +.
And then a few documentaries, on Jonas Mekas, the paper of experimental cinema, or Tardi and the war of 14. As for the written press, I came there by TV. For “Alcaline”, the France 2 broadcast, I did 50-minute interviews, we kept 5. I contacted Manoeuvre at Rock & Folk, and told him that I had 45 minutes of unpublished work to offer him. The first was Costello. Today I write for the magazine Vinyle & Audio.

Your background is quite atypical…

In fact, it started as a child, via my father, a film and jazz critic. It was through the blues of Muddy Waters that I started to get interested in music. And then, at 10 years old, with my parents, the Dylan concert in Colombes, in 1981, the first of a long series… And then as a kid, Elvis a lot, and especially Eddie Cochran whose Memorial Album I had (like all
the world). As a teenager, without internet, but with Rock & Folk, or the US version of Rolling Stone, I dreamed of all those records that I couldn’t afford. And then, in 1984, my father returned from the United States with two Bruce records, Born in the USA and Nebraska. Cataclysm! Since then, I have seen it about forty times. I could also talk about Keith Richards… but I won’t say anything more than those who love him already know.

You also made a documentary on Claude Sautet. Your field is vintage, cinema and music?

Claude Sautet is truly an intimate and family story. I knew him very well, he was one of my father’s best friends. I was a sound trainee on his last film. It was really him who kicked my ass so that I could live up to my ambitions. So when I felt the possibility of a film about him was being considered, I jumped at the chance. And I think you can listen to Exile on Main St. and love César and Rosalie, which I think came out the same year. So vintage, yes, I have to become more and more vintage, that’s what I’m told. Yet I had the impression of still being a bit “in the know”… Vintage expression, if there is one!

Belkacem Bahlouli

Find this interview and many others in Rolling Stone n° 141, available here.

Rolling Stone has given a special number to Neil Young, available here