Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Last Waltz - 1978

"The Last Waltz" - 1978
Dir. by Martin Scorsese - 1 hr. 57 min.

Official Trailer

"The Last Waltz" documents The Band's final concert, which took place in San Francisco in 1976.  If you're not exactly sure who The Band was, they're probably best known for the song "The Weight," or for the time during the 70's when they backed Bob Dylan.  This movie is frequently hailed as the best concert movie ever (and was directed by Martin Scorsese), so I had pretty high expectations going in.

While The Band's catalog of songs can hold their own, one of the things that's particularly fun about this concert is the steady stream of big name guest stars who drop in for a song or two.  The real highlights were Muddy Waters performance of "Mannish Boy," and Bob Dylan's pair of songs, "Forever Young" and "I Shall Be Released."  Also of note is the performance of their best-known song, "The Weight", featuring the Staples Singers.  I had a great time watching Neil Young's performance, but not necessarily due to the song itself.  The filmmakers had to retouch Young's footage, as he had a chunk of cocaine in or around his nose region, at great expense.  Other than that, the whole night's worth of music is consistently really good, though.

There were interview segments interspersed through the movie that effectively told the story of The Band, although it's not a "Behind the Music" sort of thing.  It was enough to give a sense of the personalities at play and the road to success, which combined with the performances, is a fantastic package.  I think that "The Last Waltz" is up there for best concert movie, although it's not a clear, runaway winner.  It's not a let-down by any means, and if you're into this kind of music it's a must-see.

4 / 5 - TV

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