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The Last Waltz
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The Last Waltz More at IMDbPro »

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A decent historic look at 1960s music on its last leg

Author: tai-pan-1 from Canada
13 February 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have seen this film several times and will never tire of it. The music is fantastic, the performances are good, and Scorsese's overall intent is subtly presented. As the title suggests, this is a filmic record of The Band's final performance, but more importantly it is a window into the coming decline of contemporary popular music. It is the last stand of the glory days of old. The various performers that you see on stage are in the latter days of their once great careers, and even though many would continue on for years, even decades to come, the central premise that the late 70s was really the 60s on its deathbed rings true. This is especially notable in the various interviews, where we notice that the musicians themselves seem quite oblivious to the reality that their time is all but up in terms of their importance or prominence to the public. Robbie Robertson is asked by Scorsese if he thinks this is the end or not. Robertson replies that it is "the beginning of the end of the beginning." As the 80s would rapidly prove, Scorsese's thesis is accurate. The period that followed would prove to be less creative musically speaking but for a few bands like U2, etc., who would survive the downturn in the quality of the music that came out of that later period. Scorsese presents the music that he loves played by the principle people that we admired. In light of the transition that was taking place from disco and new wave to rap and worse, this film is more than a footnote to a once proud and glorious musical heritage. Don't listen to the detractors. Watch the movie, and listen to the performances. It is not the greatest film of its kind - I would rather watch The Song Remains the Same - but it is what it is, a film of the times made by a man who had sensitivity to the times, on time! Very often we don't notice that something is lost until after it happens. Scorsese noticed while it was happening, and that by itself is quite astute of him, and puts him in a league with journalists who have their ear to the ground.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Scorsese's White Powder Fantasy

Author: sameoldsong150m from Canada
25 October 2003

Being a huge fan of the band one might expect that I would also be a big fan of this movie. This is certainly not the case.

The idea of the Band in my opinion was for them to be a band with five equal members. Mr. Marty Scorsese obviously didn't think so. He must have been under the impression that the Band was a star vehicle for Robbie Robertson, like history has written, and not the group of equal musicians that slowly waltzed out of Big Pink.

Like Levon Helm said in his book the band was based on the heart and soul of Richard Manuel, the genius of Garth Hudson, the songwriting of robbie robertson, the hopping rythm of Rick Danko's bass, all pulled together by the tight rythms of Levon and Richard. On top of all that the three best vocalists in rock music, none of which are robbie robertson.

Even though half of the film is robbie singing his heart out from behind his ever changing Hollywood wardrobe, he is singing into a microphone that was turned off. Meanwhile you hear an amazing voice that comes from nowhere that you assume to be his but it belongs to the late Richard Manuel who is made to look like a clown in this movie.

As far as Scorsese's interview segments go you've got four guys who don't want to be where they are talking about some things they don't want to talk about with an interviewer that they couldn't care less if they never saw again. Then you have robbie robertson trying his best to turn the interview segments into a Hollywood career (which must have come to a complete halt when everyone saw his performance in the Crossing Guard).

It's a shame that this is how these folks are remembered, on screen at least, when footage exists of much finer concerts in Japan (Without robertson)that were never officially released. Part of the reason for this is that the rest of the Band didn't have the love for business and money that robertson pumped into the Last Waltz. With the exception of Manuel (who hung himself on a shower rod after a modest turn out at a small venue) the rest of the Band would've been happy playing anywhere for the rest of their lives. And basically, they all did.

Sorry if this got a little off track.

Buy the albums starting from Music From Big Pink before you ever watch this movie!

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Fantastic last dance for The Band

Author: canganjj (
18 July 2003

This film is an absolute treat for anyone who enjoys great concert footage and interviews behind The Band's development as a touring powerhouse. The music, of course, is fantastic. Great artists like Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young make appearances to help The Band celebrate its final concert in San Francisco. Annecdotes are present throughout the film and are an absolute treat to watch.

The one interesting thing I noticed, though, is that the audience is never seen (and only heard sporadically). Scorcese did a fabulous job of leaving this staple of live music out to focus on The Band and give the film a very intricate and personal feel to it. Even though The Band called it quits from touring (after 15 years) with this Last Waltz, it is easy to tell how much they enjoyed the road and how they all are ready for a change in lifestyle. This film also serves as a great historical piece that displays classic rock artists. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys rockumentaries. 10/10

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

raw onstage performances

Author: David Ferguson ( from Dallas, Texas
30 April 2002

Greetings again from the darkness. I had not seen "The Last Waltz" since 1978 when I saw it at the college campus theatre with the worst possible picture and sound. At the time I thought it was OK and slightly interesting to see the list of guest performers. The 2002 re-release is FANTASTIC. The enhanced visual and audio are wonderful. Watching Muddy Waters quiver with emotion, Eric Clapton's fingers flying across the neck of his guitar while Robbie Robertson struggles to keep up, and Neil Diamond on the cusp of his "middle-aged women/all arena two decade tour" trying desperately to fit in with the real musicians all make this worth the price of admission. What a joy to see Neil Young (with Joni Mitchell on backup) play "Helpless" and seem to be having such a great time. While all the anger now Neil? This may be the last time Bob Dylan actually sang his songs. Now he just whines nasally. The real showstopper is Van Morrison belting out "Caravan" unlike any other. Watch for all of the onstage dynamics of an unrehearsed concert. Quite a difference from 'n Sync!! My favorite part is watching Robbie Robertson manuever for maximum camera time. He has always been the male Streisand ... desperate for privacy, but the ultimate promoter. Watching Scorcese interview Robertson at the beginning is very insightful. Robertson constants wants him to "ask that one again" so he can provide a "better" answer. Just a mesmerizing couple of hours that is well worth your time even if you never really understood "The Weight".

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful Film for rock fans

Author: amosduncan_2000 from United States
20 February 2006

First, to correct misinformation from one of the posters, only Richard Manuel committed suicide, but Rick Danko has passed away as well.

There was a time I would have disqualified myself from reviewing this film; I'm such a huge fan of the Band it would have been hard for me not to like it. With the years, I think, the film has become more important, keeping some of these performances on record is important from a historic standpoint, Muddy Waters leaps to mind.

I think, in a sense, this was a "Last Waltz" for the youth of these rockers, many continued to do great work, some did not, but most were really saying goodbye to the hazy, crazy days of the sixties once and for all. So it's touching from that standpoint. So mostly, if you love these performers you will love the film, and vice versa.

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9 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Cinematic Music

Author: tedg ( from Virginia Beach
25 September 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Spoilers herein

Rock and Roll, despite its self-described rebellion, is about order. Blues is also about order, slightly but emotionally and predictably outside of order. They are both like a bad marriage -- charming at first but tedious in the long run.

Country music and its incarnation in folk was then about storytelling. Some time around '66 Bob and Paul and John (and Brian and some others) started writing music cinematically. Some of the Beatles songs come from directly movies: 'All you Need is Love" is from South Pacific, for instance. But all of the later Beatles songs and Dylan songs from this period (beginning with "Tambourine Man") started life as cinematic visions, stories in pictures translated into lyrics and energy.

For a good while there, cinematic music was a strong contender for our imagination in the music marketplace, with The Band as the lead vehicle. That's in part because of the mix of Garth Hudson and Levon Helm. Garth is all about discovered disorder. He calls it jazz because something similar often happens there, but disorder in the popular media is something else: Garth's vocabulary is all about lyrics with unexpected emphasis of the ordinary. It is blues outside the lines allowed by the tradition and jazz within street signs. It is beat made pretty. His inspiration is John Ford's innovation: Ford took a dull, bad cowboy actor and taught him how (in "Stagecoach") to utter his lines with an unexpected cadence. Thus began a tradition of performance "jazz" in film acting which Garth adapts and exploits.

Helm is a storyteller, from a family of storytellers. The two, Helm and Hudson, together have crafted a novel and lasting entry in the art of cinematic music: stories whose rhythms in telling are different enough that they establish a sort of aural camera. The other members of the band are talented enough, but act primarily as transferral agents from other innovators and traditions rather than innovating themselves.

Dylan was the primary experimenter in our age of language, mostly in sounds rather than cadence, until he met The Band while recuperating from a near-death experience. When he tied in with them, magic happened: stories, cadence, poetry, merged, all cinematically rooted -- and it transformed us all. Every one of us of a certain age passed through the portal of this music, following the progress through underground copies of the basement tapes and nearly unreadable late generation xeroxes of stolen galleys of "Tarantula."

(This tradition of cinematic music with disordered cadence has been abandoned by the later Dylan, even in singing older songs. It is continued and extended in its pure form by Joni and Van, and was picked up as goofy irony by The Police, Talking Heads and some Genesis. But it is now all but dead and has been appropriated as soap opera by today's so-called country music. This concert was the end and we all knew it, even then. Compare the novel, odd phrasing of the recording of "Forever Young" to his earnest but flat phrasing here. Is it his conscious surrender, or something else?)

As with music, so always with cinema: there was a similar battle in the world of film for control over our imagination. The notion of character-informed rhythmic storytelling was led by Scorsese (and Coppola). It is a deeply Italian tradition, as compared to more layered and experimental narrative traditions. That's why Scorsese wanted to do this and why he succeeds so admirably: it is cinematic music finally expressed in cinema, his variety of cinema. It is his only successful story.

Is this the best concert film? Yes, in fact it may be the only honest film of a concert possible because the songs come to the film as the film comes to them. They probably never will again.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

It doesn't get much better than this.

Author: porkchopsjar from Canada
25 March 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The first time I saw "The Last Waltz", I was about fourteen, and my best friend and I had just started our own little garage band. My mum was watching "The Last Waltz" on A&E, as I recall, and she made us watch it with her, saying, "OK, you kids want to be musicians, then you need to see this!" We had no idea who any of these performers were...hell, to us Bob Dylan at that time was just the guy who'd smoked up The Beatles! Well, I was impressed then, even though it took me about another ten years or so to get into The Band, Dylan, Neil Young, etc (all of whom are among my favourite artists today.) "The Last Waltz" is, of course, Martin Scorsese's documentary of The Band's final concert, at Winterland in San Fran, on Thanksgiving 1976. After sixteen years of being on the road, with all the hard living and extra baggage that that entails, they'd decided to pack it in (or at least Robbie Robertson had, as history has shown.) And they decided to go out with a bang, inviting practically all of their musical associates to join them: Dylan, Young, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Ronnie Hawkins (who had, after all, given them their first big break years and years before), Van Morrison, Muddy Waters and even Neil Diamond, to name a few. Probably the greatest pre-Live Aid gathering ever on one stage. So you can be guaranteed that music will be top notch; aside from The Band's own classics ("The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"; "The Shape I'm In"; "Ophelia"; "It Makes No Difference"...even a new studio-shot version of "The Weight" featuring The Staples Singers) you get Dylan doing "Forever Young", Neil Young's "Helpless", Joni Mitchell's "Coyote", Van The Man's "Caravan"...a veritable 70's California rock wet dream.

Ah yes...the timeless as the majority of the music performed at "The Last Waltz" is, practically everything else about it just screams 1976. Especially the costumes: lots of bellbottoms, butterfly collars and plaid on display. Richard Manuel, The Band's pianist (R.I.P.), and Don Cherry must have the same tailor, what with their taste for tacky suits. Along with the 70's clothes is the 70's cocaine, with which this concert just reeks of (I practically get a coke buzz just watching it, and I detest cocaine!). Apparently Scorsese and Robertson spent quite a bit of their own money just to rotoscope a big chunk of blow hanging from Neil Young's nose. To their credit, as high as EVERYBODY involved seems to be, the performances are great (even if, according to Levon Helm, The Band's drummer, a lot of post-production overdubs took place...I've heard the bootleg of the actual concert and you really can't tell.) For what makes "The Last Waltz" so special is how well The Band meshed and their onstage interaction. Here were five guys who were utterly simpatico with one another musically...if there is a such thing as musical mindreading, these guys could do it (which explains how they could back up Bob Dylan so well). In my opinion, the only other band that comes close to this kind of interaction is Led Zeppelin...and arguably The Band pulled it off better. The sum indeed made up more than the parts, which makes the Helm-led 80's "reunions" such a letdown.

Having said that, the biggest drawback to "The Last Waltz" is how it is more or less presented as The Robbie Robertson Show. Sure, Robbie's a hell of a songwriter and guitarist, but it cracks me up to no end watching him sing into that unplugged microphone ('cos the man can't really least not compared to Manuel, Helm or Rick Danko, whose performance of "It Makes No Difference" is, for me, the song of the night). Robertson gets the most camera time, both onstage and during the interviews, though the other four guys have their share of insights as well during Scorsese's interviews (even if Danko is stoned silly and Manuel is hammered.) Still, "The Last Waltz" is Robbie's trip just like "Let It Be" is Paul McCartney's show.

Still, all told, "The Last Waltz" -and The Band in general- is really musician's music, and deservedly so. Heh of my exes, who is not musically minded, watched "The Last Waltz" with me once and couldn't understand all the fuss (she complained a lot of the music was "too slow".) "Are you nuts?!" I said...we broke up not long after, actually. I still make it a point to watch this film at least four or five times a year, and always ask myself, "What the hell has happened to popular music since then?" musical era, with only a handful of exceptions, ends at about 1980...I have no tolerance for nowadays greed-motivated pop CRAP. Artists like The Band epitomize artistic integrity, which seems to be as dead as John Lennon these days.

By the way...the fact that "The Last Waltz" was directed by Martin Scorsese, probably the greatest filmmaker of modern times, is just a great big bonus! Marty's got impeccable taste in music...I'd love to check out his record collection.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The Best Rock Documentary Ever!

Author: jackrainman ( from Rochester, NY
13 May 2002

I have been waiting for this DVD for years. My Last Waltz collection includes a 1st printing poster (valued at $350), original VHS tape, original 3 LP set, original 2 CD set, new 4 CD box set, and now the DVD! I would never think of selling any of it. I don't want to repeat great things that have been said many times over about this movie. The only comment I want to make is about all the negative comments about Neil Diamond. I am not a big fan of his or anything, but I enjoy some of his material. If you watch the film closely (and pay attention), Robbie Robertson explains the reason Neil was invited to perform was that they both got their start as struggling songwriters in Tin Pan Alley in the early 1960's. Their music styles may have gone off in different directions, but it is the same as renewing a high school friendship at a reunion, when your lives are now different. Don't put him down. It was a good performance (Dry Your Eyes), and not one of his real "pop" numbers. As far as the actual shooting of the movie, one of my favorite parts is the side shot of Robbie and Rick as they sing "Up On Cripple Creek" and the lens switches focus on each guy. Not something you see on any other Rock documentary. Definitely a Scorcese touch! Van Morrison kicks ASS on "Caravan"!

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

This Film Should Be Played Loud!

Author: Patrick Brogan from Glendale, Arizona, U.S.A.
20 May 2002

It was over twenty-five years ago, on November 26, 1976; Robbie Robertson decided that his highly successful and popular group named "The Band" should end their sixteen years of tours and being together at Bill Graham's Winterland Arena in San Francisco. It was the most obvious choice to choose the Winterland, since it was the first place The Band made their solo debut without their original front man Ronnie Hawkins and later Bob Dylan.

The concert was to be a small event which later got bigger and bigger. The Band got Ronnie Hawkins to appear for the show, as well as Bob Dylan. Other big name acts followed, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Neil Diamond, Muddy Waters, Ron Wood, and Ringo Starr. This small event turned into something more meaningful, and Robertson had a excellent idea to document this special event and have Martin Scorsese be in charge of it. THE LAST WALTZ is the name of the final concert for The Band, and the name of the film. It features the concert performance at the Winterland, some interviews with each member of The Band discussing their history and telling stories, and features three masterpiece footage of the Band performing on a MGM studio soundstage where Scorsese had control to use track shots and rotating track shots. Along with WOODSTOCK and LET IT BE, THE LAST WALTZ is one of the best rock n' roll documentaries ever! It has the energy and excitement that one would have after attending a concert in person. What makes this film even better, but some critics (Roger Ebert mainly), argue that you don't see the crowds reaction. Scorsese and Robertson defend that complaint with, "this movie is about the concert, not the people." And that is true. Why would anyone want to watch the audience during a live concert. When I watch a show, 85% of the time I'm watching the performer, 15% I would talk to the person that I am with sharing that experience. I don't watch other people, and that was a very clever move on Scorsese's part, which makes you feel that you are watching the concert. The performances are outstanding. If your feet are tapping along with the beat by the Band's second song, "Up on Cripple Creek" you might want to check your pulse. Another standout live performance by the Band is, "Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." The performances by the guests are also good. Dr. John's "Such A Night" is enjoyable, Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" is well done (although he should have given second thought for his wardrobe), and Van Morrison's "Caravan" also gives out an impressive amount of energy. But I found three performances in the film that stood out, one was live, the other two were filmed for the movie. Neil Young's "Helpless" shows that Young had just as much energy then as he does now, which is what makes him one of the best musicians ever. As for the two audience absent performances that were filmed at MGM studios in Culiver City, it might not have the cheers and hooting that a audience would give, but they are just as powerful. When The Band performs their signiture song, "The Weight" with The Staples, you are entertained by not only the song, but by the way Scorsese has the camera move around the stage and edits a different memember of The Band at approprate times with the song. The other excellent song was the then new "Evangeline" which The Band performed with Emmylou Harris. The tracking shot showing the members of The Band playing different instruments, and Harris singing with them to such a beautiful song would give any person goose-bumps who is watching. And it shows that The Band was highly talented by not only playing their usual instruments but by having drummer Levon Helm who usually plays the drums playing the mandolin and paniast Richard Manuel playing the drums and later the slide gituar.

For anyone who loves music, filmmaking, or documentaries, THE LAST WALTZ is a definite classic! And for those who love the music of The Band or any of it's guest musicians, would also love it as well. Had Alan Parker actually shot the live concert footage of Pink Floyd's THE WALL and released it, that would have been the best concert movie ever. But since it wasn't, this film is a very exceptional subsitute. Don't miss it!!!!! ***** (out of five)

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Waltzing through greatness..

Author: dbdumonteil
5 August 2006

A splendid time is guaranteed for all.According to your taste,you are sure to find in this 2 hours movie what you are looking for. Here are my favorites:

The Band are at their best: the wistful "out of this world" ,the harrowing "it makes no difference" and the duet with Emmylou Harris ("Evangeline) are particularly exciting perhaps because they are not among their best known staples such as "the night they drove old Dixie down" or "the weight".

Although Neil Young did not like his performance ,I love him whatever he may do;and his cover of Ian Tyson's "Four strong winds" makes sense cause both Young and the Band are Canadians,but it was not in the film.On the other hand his "helpless" is at least as good as the original he made with CSN .(I must admit I'm not a fan of CSN)

I do not go much generally for Joni Mitchell's stuff but here she delivers the goods;her "Coyote " is peppy,jazzy and I wish she had done "Amelia" too.

Van Morrison is musically closer to the Band than anyone else on the stage:the first time I had listened his "moondance" album,I mistook it for a Band album.A great artist,a great song "Caravan".On the other hand ,his cover of a traditional fails to excite me cause there are so many great songs in his own catalog he could have performed.

My favorite moment is Dylan's fiery "Baby let me follow you down" .My Lord,what a singer! The Band perfectly segues from this traditional into "I don't believe you" although the Rhino reissue of the record on four CDs four years ago reveals that they performed "Hazel" just after "Baby..."Forever young" and "I shall be released " climax the concert.

A note about the previously unreleased tracks on the 2002 edition:it could have been boiled down to a three-CD set cause the concert rehearsal ,the studio ideas (sic) and the jams could have stayed in the can.But there are plenty of good songs we do not hear in the film:outside "Four strong winds"and "Hazel" ,there is Clapton's "all our past time" Mitchell's "Furry sings the blues" the Band's "Acadian Driftwood" (J'Ai Le Mal Du Pays =I've got homesick blues)and more..

Martin Scorcese bows to no one,when it comes to direct a rock film.

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