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This movie was only a name to me until I saw it last year. Immediately,
I was riveted by everything about it. I've always been a casual fan of
The Band, and of Levon Helm in particular. However, I'd never been
bowled over by Bob Dylan, except as a songwriter, so much of The Band's
work remained unknown to me as well. I wouldn't say I've become a rabid
fan, but I am much more interested in their work, now.
It's a Scorsese film--how could it not be beautifully photographed, but Scorsese managed a difficult feat: he keeps himself out of the movie, except as interviewer during those sequences. This is not really Scorese's vision of a rock concert. It happened mostly organically, certainly with mistakes, gaffes and grit. This is part of its charm.
There are better singers than the guys in The Band, but few better musicians. This can be illustrated with Robbie Robertson in the Clapton song: Clapton's guitar strap comes off and Robertson, with one beat, picks right up on the solo. It looked planned, but wasn't. Joni Mitchell was notoriously hard to back up, due to her original guitar tuning, and ragged song phrasing, but bassist Rick Danko fills in every space with intricate bass figuring.
Perhaps we have become too accustomed to the overwrought, over-hyped, overproduced, overexposed, shiny gack that passes for popular music to appreciate the raw, the imperfect, the sheer humanness of this music. Scorsese shows it all. The guys in The Band were largely worn out and sometimes strung out in the interviews. They are tired, scrawny, empty-eyed from the excesses of the road. Rick Danko is hovering on the ragged edge, as his band is dissolved, and he says his goal is to "keep busy." Richard Manuel looks lost as he says "I just want to break even." These are two musicians who desperately needed the music, but who were murdered by the road. We see their bleak destinies in their eyes in this film.
It is bittersweet certainly, but also a moment in time, crystallized into something great by the music, the love of friends, the willingness of the director to simply stand back and allow the music to happen. It also reminds us what good music used to sound like and makes me wish could exist again.
Martin Scorsese's documentary has been labelled a time capsule of an era,
and whilst this type of reference usually sounds overstated, there is no
doubting the accomplishment of this film as an event. Many use the
documentary 'Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music' as the ultimate
of a music-doco, but whilst the music in The Last Waltz is actually on
with the great performances of Woodstock (bar Jimi Hendrix[there's no
substitute]), the thing which elevates The Last Waltz is the photography.
This was the first music doco to be shot on 35mm and watching the concert, you'd think that each performance was carefully choregraphed over a few weeks of shooting rather than over one night. Special thanks must be given to Cinematogrpaher Michael Chapman for his efforts on this film. The look of the film is what elevates it's overall appeal, because the music was always going to be epic, especially with the cavalcade of great names performing. This is just great filmmaking from contemporary cinema's most accomplished filmmaker. And how about that haunting theme that both starts and ends the film. Just great.
If you, as a music lover, have ever wondered what it would be like to
see a concert starring the very cream of the crop from the sixties and
seventies, you have that opportunity now. Martin Scorcese has produced
a film that should be mandatory viewing for anyone who calls themselves
a rock lover. While all the performances are memorable, Van Morrison,
Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and, of course, The Band are incredible. Beyond
the music, the very premise of the concert is amazing: A big bang to
end the era, thanksgiving dinner for thousands, a wicked lineup, great
music and some really enlightening interviews. The Last Waltz is a must
see if you are a fan of the rock&roll genre, as The Band and friends
not only play their hearts out, but also pay tribute to the sound that
we all know and love.
Watch it, you won't regret the time spent.
Forget "Woodstock". Forget "Gimme Shelter". "Let It Be'? Forget that too.
This is, truly, THE greatest rock and roll film ever made. Why? Well, try
for a moment to forget that the actual performance itself features the
artists it does (including The Band) and focus on the film
This film is shot in 35mm format which gives the picture pristine look (as opposed to all other previous rock films, which were shot on 16mm). But it's not just a spralling work, this is also well executed as well. By that, I mean the production value is outstanding. The lighting is unlike any rock concert I've seen (and I've seen many). The camera work is top-notch (apparently it was done by the best in Hollywood at the time). It's also easy to see that a great deal of planning went into the production. Other concert films (Woodstock, Monterey Pop) suffer from a "last minute scramble" look that simply isn't there with "Waltz".
Add to that the shear magnitude of what The Band had undertaken. Imagine learning, arranging and performing so many songs in so many styles by so many artists in one night with only one take of each allowed. When that is taken into consideration, you have to have a degree of respect for them. Of course, I'm bias. I'm Canadian, as were 4/5ths of The Band.
My only critique would be a technical one. It seems Rick Danko redubbed all of his bass playing. Whether this is attributed to a technical problem or unhappiness with his performance is unclear. However, what is clear is that what you hear the bass doing in the audio and what you see on the screen are completely different.
Rock music at it's best. What a performance by Robbie and the band. They just don't make music like they used to nowadays. The energy and true musicianship that went into this concert was phenomenal. The guest artists that also played with the band really did bring the house down and with Martin Scorses's direction and great sound engineers this will undoubtedly go down in history as the greatest live rock/music video ever. I wish i had been around back in 76' for that concert man. Sad to see that Rick and Richard have passed away but glad that their talents have been captured on film for the world too see how good these guys were. Not only were the Band great musicians, but they were all great characters, real interesting guys with a genuine belief in what they were doing. Not like the sell-outs that the music industry now has in abundance.
Either I'm getting older or the world's getting younger, but when a rock concert documentary film airs on TCM, there should be some sort of pause for a reality check. In a salute to WALTZ'S director Martin Scorsese, the film aired on TCM over the New Year's weekend. I hadn't seen it or thought about it in 25 years. And all I can say is that it hasn't lost any of its power. (And this from someone who's never been to a live rock concert.) The stars of the film- the all-purpose backup and touring band called 'The Band-' give a simple but enlightening insight to the mechanics of their 16 years on the road and how their Thanksgiving Day final concert in San Francisco turned into a revival-like celebration. Even though I grew up on jazz music more so than rock, I can fully appreciate The Band's intense, immense music background- influenced by everything from blues to country to folk music. As for the concert itself you have the likes of Neil Young, Ron Wood, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, and Dr. John (who gives a standout, honky-tonk performance of "Such A Night,") kickin' it on stage before it's all over. And if these live performances weren't enough, there are additional performances done on a sound stage with artists that weren't part of the live show woven into the 117-minute film: a fabulous folk/gospel jam session of the song "The Weight" teamed with the Staples Singers (lead by Mavis Staples, who sounds very Gladys Knight-like) and about thirty minutes later shifting gears into the lovely folk ballad "Evangeline," replete with fiddle, mandolin, and acoustic guitar from Emmylou Harris. Also cool is Muddy Waters bluesing on "Ain't that a Man," and the finale with all the artists of "I Shall Be Released." You just might be.
If you're not completely in love with The Band before watching this movie, you certainly will be after. This is one of those life-changing-you-laugh-you-cry-you-can't-stop-thinking-about-it kind of movies. The music is unbelievable and the interviews are entertaining at the least. It's more personal than Woodstock and, in my opinion, the music is infinitely better than any other rock documentary made to date. Apart from the intensely talented men of The Band, musical greats like Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, and (of course) Bob Dylan play some unforgettable performances. Do yourself a favor and watch it. It's a concert performed by inspiring, talented musicians; it's what we all need in this time of musical uncertainty.
In the words of Robbie Robertson, "The Last Waltz" began as a concert
and turned into a celebration. There is no word that can be used to
describe "The Last Waltz" better than 'celebration'. This is a
celebration of The Band, and of music, specifically American music,
which The Band loved and played so many styles of.
"The Last Waltz" is a concert film, and there's a common sentiment outside of the rock fan community that such films can never be true art films. If proof exists that this is not true, "The Last Waltz" is it. The film is brilliantly directed by Martin Scorsese, who captures this incredibly powerful and remarkable performance with skill that can't be described as anything other than amazing. This film looks absolutely stunning. What else can one ask for other than a film that looks pristine and beautiful, and contains some of the best music ever written? Scorsese is a smart filmmaker and knows that he could add to the film by including short interview segments with the members of The Band, all of which are relevant to and enhance the film.
The beauty of "The Last Waltz" is its simplicity. The Band were probably the most unpretentious major musical group there has ever been. They were interested in nothing other than playing good music, and Scorsese, at least in this instance, is not interested in doing anything other than creating a simple, true document of a memorable, great musical event. That's what he does, he captures a brilliant concert where the addition of celebrity musical guests does not cheapen it at all, but makes it a true celebration of music. Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Neil Young... the list goes on and on.
Phenomenal musicianship, phenomenal film-making, a phenomenal film all around. One of the best and most joyous films ever made.
Standouts include-- Rick Danko performing a soulful rendition of "It
makes no difference".
Eric Clapton jamming with Robbie Robertson shows that Robbie is an excellent, and I believe, under rated guitarist.
"The night they drove old Dixie down" is another great performance with Levon belting it out.
Bob Dylan on "I shall be released" and "Forever young" are moving even though he is obviously renown for his song writing and not vocal abilities.
Muddy Waters, Ronny Hawkins, and Van Morrison also deliver the goods.
There is some gray material, however, for me, the diamonds outweigh the granite.
If you like blues, country rock, or electric folk there will be something for you in this film.
The interviews are interesting but, of course, it's the music that makes the movie.
I rented this for $3 at Blockbuster on DVD. It was worth more.
You don't have to be a die-hard fan of The Band to appreciate this concert film. Martin Scorsese turns this farewell performance into a lasting tribute to one of the greatest bands of all time, and to many of their contemporaries as well. The guest performer list for this show reads like a veritable who's who of Rock and Roll history, with performances by Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton, to name but a few. Even if you weren't born yet, or were too young to remember these artists in their heyday, this film will educate you as to what all the fuss was about. And believe me, the fuss was well deserved.
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