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USA 1978
Directed by
Martin Scorsese
117 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
5 stars

The Last Waltz

Often touted as the best filmed rock-concert/doco ever, with a band, well, The Band, celebrating 16 years on the road, red-hot on the night, with a roster of strong songs and a star guest list including Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Muddy Waters plus Marty Scorsese's superior talents overseeing the filming, it is a claim with a good deal of justice, even if one is not a major fan of the style of music played.

For a start, although Woodstock had preceded it by eight years, as a single concert film it was a pioneering effort at this level of technical quality. A relatively obscure outfit given surprise fame when Dylan selected them as his backing band, live The Band reveal themselves as much gutsier than their studio releases would lead one to believe. Indeed when joined by the Muddy Waters and then Eric Clapton they tear up the house in fine rock/blues style.

Scorsese, who was finishing up work on the way-over-budget New York, New York filmed in 35mm with Vilmos Szigmond and Laszlo Kovacs as cameramen in what was a carefully-controlled production, with even the songs story-boarded to facilitate the seamless camerawork and the floor of San Francisco's Winterland sawn through so that the cameras could be anchored to the building's foundation for image stability. The outcome was a surprisingly vibrant show of tip-top performances by artists at the height of their careers that was captured with rare intimacy and intercut with some revealing backstage interview segments (that with complete lack of self-effacement include the pint-sized director himself).




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