Decades later, another war—and they're carrying on

Even to those of us who were undergraduates ourselves when protesters died at Kent State University and inspired " Ohio," the quartet headlining "CSNY: Déjà Vu" are a bit worse for wear.

Whether from age, substance affinity or both, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young, subjects of this tuneful documentary, look pretty old. Crosby and Stills are Santa Claus-rotund, their trademark hippie hair frayed and tragicomically flyaway. Nash is rugged and gray, while Young, mastermind behind the documentary and, using the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, its director, is still a mix of the gentle and the vinegary, now glossed with a grandfatherly patina. The gap between now and the counterculture looms wide every time we gaze on any of them.

After all the breakups and ego battles, the team reunited for a 2006 tour to protest the Iraq war, in conjunction with Young's "Living With War" album. Those sonorous chords are sometimes discordant, and concertgoers at some stops, notably Atlanta, don't take well to the anti-war diatribe.

But "CSNY: Déjà Vu" brings back glimmers of the old glory and touchingly suggests that the body may age, but the spirit of the Woodstock nation endures. You can disagree with the quartet's opposition to Iraq, but 40 years on, you can't call them inconsistent.

Young's movie is slanted to his take, and, because it's his movie, who's to argue? He does employ veteran TV war correspondent Mike Cerre as an embedded participant, offering some objectivity, and a handful of those angry at the political message get air time too. But Young wants to promote the perspective espoused on the album, and he does so with interviews with the band, their supporters and anti-war activists then running for Congress (including our own Tammy Duckworth). There's also powerfully moving commentary from veterans themselves and family members.

One such powerful segment involves Iraq veteran Josh Hisle, a Cincinnati songwriter who gets to jam with Young on camera, a dream come true for the younger musician and a moment of uncalculated humility from the older one.

"CSNY" is by no means a typical concert movie; the selections are played mostly in short takes and snippets. It's more a road movie with music, its war topic treated with earnest seriousness. And there's humor. "Neil's Tony Orlando, and we're Dawn, right?" Stills says of their setup. In a stunning instance of actual media vapidity, a perky TV reporter cites Young's "Let's Impeach the President" and then asks, "What's this song about?"

The musicians, never known for their letter-perfect live performances, get some early bad reviews, including one from a critic noting their average age of 62½ and wondering if, when they huddle onstage, they're comparing prescription drug notes.

But as tour and movie progress, they manage to reclaim their dignity and purpose, which, if nothing else, has always been direct, transparent and melodic. You yearn to ask the Atlanta concertgoers expressing surprise at the anti-war content if they'd ever listened to the group's albums before. As Young says, the idea is not to make fans "feel fuzzy and warm at the end of the concert. The idea is to make them feel."

MPAA rating: R (for some language and brief war images).

Opening: Friday at Landmark's Century Centre Cinema.

Running time: 1:36.

Directed by: Bernard Shakey; written by Neil Young and Mike Cerre; photographed by Mike Elwell; edited by Mark Faulkner; music by Young; sound editing by Tom Fleischman; produced by L.A. Johnson. A Shakey Pictures release.