The Last Waltz [Blu-ray]
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It started as a concert. It became a celebration. Join an unparalleled lineup of rock superstars asthey 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 evermade" (New York Times) it's "one of the most important cultural events of the last two decades" (Rolling Stone)!
- Aspect Ratio : 1.85:1
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- Language : English
- Product dimensions : 16.51 x 12.7 x 1.27 cm; 90.72 Grams
- Item Model Number : 2221655
- Media Format : Color, Dolby, AC-3, Blu-ray, Multiple Formats, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
- Run time : 1 hour and 57 minutes
- Release date : 25 July 2006
- Subtitles: : English, Spanish, French, Korean, Portuguese, Chinese
- Language : English (Stereo), French (Mono), Spanish (Mono)
- Studio : MGM (Video & DVD)
- ASIN : B000EZ7ZZ4
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: 15,400 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- 11,783 in Movies (Movies & TV)
- Customer Reviews:
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It is a quiet and reflective retrospective on their music, era, lives and influences, with no footage archive but only words, songs and friends.
Maybe the direction is a little too rational and cold, typical of Scorsese style, but to me it was a big emotion even when I first watch it and did not know anything about those guys, but immediately fell in love with their style and class. That of guys who can play great music and still maintain a discretion and a low-key attitude that unfortunately would not belong anymore to the music generations of the following 40 years.
Unmissable moments: Dr John playing Such a NIght, Eric Clapton Further on up the road, the best cover of The Weight ever done (with Staples Singers) and Paul Butterfield's version of Mystery train. Plus the emotional final songs, with all the artists and friends together on stage. The Blu ray is very good and so are the extras
The main meat of the film though, is of course the concert performances. I'm not normally a fan of star-studded guest appearance formats. But The Band more or less pull it off here. Personally I feel some of these guest spots work better than others, the Neil Young, Neil Diamond and Bob Dylan songs (even the Eric Clapton and Van Morrison numbers) simply not being amongst the best songs (or versions of said songs) by each respective artist. Indeed the first time I saw this movie, many years ago, it was primarily to see the Joni segment, and at that time I thought The Band's handling of her delicate, subtle music was leaden and turgid (esp. compared with her own live and recorded versions, where her accompanists are usually musos with a jazz pedigree).
Watching The Last Waltz again however, whilst researching an article on Levon Helm, I found my criticisms in this respect had softened: The Band (for all that they appear as if they might be wired or stoned or whatever) are both very together, and sensitive/responsive. And they made a great effort to learn a huge swathe of material by their guest artists, in order that they could appear to 'wing it' in the night. And despite many of the song choices not being the best or most famous (in itself an interesting sign of The Band's whole understated and slightly ornery approach to music), everybody involved really gives it their all, which gives the whole show real spirit and energy.
The best songs by far here are The Band's own classics, especially The Weight and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. Both usually sung by the charismatic and endearing Helm (the only American, and a good old' southern boy at that, amongst a troop of Canadians whose music has come to define Americana), the former is played live in concert, complete with horns, a little too fast I feel (I miss Levon's press-rolls, as on the sublime album version), but still sounding fabulous, whilst the latter sees Helm generously sharing the vocal spotlight with bassist Rick Danko and the magnificent Staples Singers, in a beautifully filmed and recorded 'sound stage' performance.
Whilst The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down falls marginally short of the album version, The Weight perhaps surpasses the original studio recording, and certainly benefits from Scorsese's superb filming, making it a quintessential piece of 'must see' music history. It also captures the sheer joy of great music-making, and how influences and inspirations - The Band were great admirers of The Staples Singers - can play such an important and potentially generous role in the evolution of music. Magical!
Between performances members of The Band talk or are interviewed. Robertson emerges as the most vociferous and articulate, with Helm then Danko trailing him, and Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson clearly less comfortable under the lens. Hudson in particular, oddball musical genius that he is, preferring to let his musical talents speak for him. Having said this, he does say some very interesting things, including one priceless bit, along the lines of 'there is a view that, uh ... jazz is evil', delivered with a laconic tone bordering on the Canuck hillbilly sage!
There is an aura around The Band of mystique, an aura which extends to reverent hyping in respect of such of their guest stars as Dylan, who's widely been treated as if he's some kind of deity. Personally I find this gets in the way of any genuine merit, whoever the artist is. But, given the inherent risks this whole ambitious concert package took (the venue is beautifully decked out, and legendary promoter Bill Graham also included lavish feasting in the ticket price) it is a remarkable success, and remains a pretty singular accomplishment.
In terms of omissions, it's disappointing that the aforementioned feast wasn't represented visually in the film, and even more so that King Harvest isn't among the songs. And there are some things, such as the rather odd Last Waltz theme tune, which don't quite sit alongside the other material too comfortably. Having realised that they hadn't adequately reflected the country aspect of their sound they filmed another excellent soundstage segment with the beautiful Emmylou Harris, an effort at covering all their musical bases that paid off handsomely.
There's very little music so well caught on film, and even amongst what little there is, this remains distinctly individual, rather like the group it portrays so beautifully. A great document of a great band containing some great music, patchy and flawed perhaps, but with enough exuberance and raw talent to nonetheless make it essential and enjoyable viewing.