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Pete Lawrence - 20 Aug 2017



What is it?

Martin Scorsese's 1978 capsule history of The Band is mixed with footage of the group's allegedly last performance (certainly their last performance as a quintet) in this particularly stylish concert film. Scorsese shoots the players and their sundry guests with the same flair and enthusiasm one can see in the later The Color of Money or Goodfellas. He also proves a good interviewer with Band members, particularly Robbie Robertson, whose sleepy-sexy good looks make a star-caliber impression in close-up.

It started as a concert. It became a celebration. Join an unparalleled lineup of rock superstars as they celebrate The Band's historic 1976 farewell performance. Directed by Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull, Goodfellas), The Last Waltz is not only "the most beautiful rock film ever made" (New York Times) it's "one of the most important cultural events of the last two decades" (Rolling Stone).

Why I love it:

The juxtaposition of chat and interviews with the live footage. But the film's real hook is the stage show, which features a rotation of rock legends playing with the Band before a wildly appreciative audience. The Band are on blistering form. 

I would class The Last Waltz as my favourite ever documentary film, focusing on The Band’s 1976 Thanksgiving Day farewell gig with a host of illustrious guests (Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters,Van Morrison, Dr John, Ronnie Hawkins, Ron Wood, Ringo Starr, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell, The Staples, Emmylou Harris, Paul Butterfield), interspersed with interview footage of the members talking about their memories and experiences on the road. Given that the youngest members were till only 33 when they broke up, they give the air of seasoned campaigners (early photos always made them look as if they were going on 60+) and what really impresses, alongside Scorsese’s editing flair as that they work so well together as a unit, largely ego-free and each member contributing to the sum of the parts, the whole which forms The Band.

Favourite bit:

So many : Muddy Waters 'Mannish Boy' positively throbs with filthy blues abandon, a wanton celbration of manhood. The set piece with The Staple Singers doing 'The Weight' is one constant goosebump-inducing shiver of delight.

Interesting fact :

Why have one interesting fact when you can have sixteen of them

Score : 95% 




dave wolks

This review has made me want to re-visit The Last Waltz. Thank you!

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