"To quote Dr. John: 'such a night'"
Dir. Martin Scorsese; feat. the Band and friends (PG)
A couple of months ago, when we noted the big restoration of this documentary for DVD and CD reissue, we had no idea SA residents would have a chance to see the restored print in the flesh on a big screen. Way to go, Texas Public Radio!
The nature of a concert film kind of begs to be seen in a theater, really; a rock concert is a communal experience, generally meant to be larger than life. Certainly, this concert was both of those things. The last performance by the Band, one of the most influential bands in rock music, it was extravagantly staged by legendary concert promoter Bill Graham, who rented chandeliers and opera backdrops, and served a multi-course Thanksgiving dinner to the audience. (To our knowledge, TPR isn't replicating this part of the experience.)
The music itself was an extravaganza. Not only does the Band perform songs that had become practically iconic during their career ("Up on Cripple Creek," "The Weight"), half the show is devoted to guest stars who have come to bid the group farewell. Robbie Robertson and company return to their "house band" roots, supporting performers ranging from Muddy Waters to Bob Dylan to, in an uncharacteristically exuberant appearance, Van Morrison.
Martin Scorsese goes beyond typical "catch it all as it goes down" concert movie convention, filming a couple of numbers on a soundstage away from the actual concert. It's a nice touch that gives the filmmaker — who was making a narrative musical of his own, New York, New York, at the time — a chance to use some stylistic techniques that put his stamp on the film. The result is a document that surpasses one night or one band and reaches something like Woodstock-level cultural significance. — John DeFore
Texas Public Radio's Cinema Tuesdays
The Last Waltz
Tuesday, June 25
$10 members, $12 non-members
AMC Huebner Oaks
The Last Waltz is available on DVD from MGM Home Entertainment.