The Last Waltz (1978)
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring: The Band, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Dr. John, Emmylou Harris, Paul Butterfield, Van Morrison, Ronnie Hawkins, Muddy Waters, Ron Wood
On November 25, 1976 The Band played their last concert together at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco California. Filmmaker Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street) filmed the concert and a number of interviews to document the event.
This is perhaps the greatest concert film ever made. The sheer amount of talent within the performances is enough to impress just about anyone. Having Martin Scorsese behind the camera makes it even better. The film focuses on the members of The Band; Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, and Robbie Robertson. In this final performance they were joined on the stage by some of the biggest names of their era.
There isn’t a true narrative to the film, but it does take time to assess The Band’s long run of success. Scorsese took time to interview the members of the group and it brings out a lot of interesting insights into their desire to walk away. (They would eventually come back together in the 1980s.) Unfortunately, Scorsese focuses a bit more on Robbie Robertson and leaves this one feeling a bit unbalanced. Still, the memories and insights shared by the different members of The Band are really wonderful.
The performances are the real highlight of this movie. Seeing The Band on stage is an awesome thing already. It’s simply amplified by the addition of guest stars like Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, and Bob Dylan. The unique success of these performances is the fact that every one of the guests feels like they could’ve been a member of The Band. The chemistry is evident throughout the entire concert. The performance is captured with simple but effective camera work that really allows the music to be the star. This is an excellent time capsule performance that brings an entire generation of great songwriters to the screen.
If you’re a fan of any of the musicians listed above; this is one you need to see. Fans of The Band should own a copy of this one already. The music is the star, but the visuals and the interviews also do great things. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.