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The Last Waltz

Directed by Martin Scorsese

USA, 1978

Cornerhouse, 25 March 2012

The Last Waltz

Martin Scorsese’s film has become an important document of record, marking the moment and capturing the concert when The Band decided to renounce the open road.

They perform a bunch of their own songs (Stage Fright, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, The Weight… ) and are also joined onstage by various rock ’n’ roll luminaries such as Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Van Morrison and above all Bob Dylan.

It is fitting that Dylan’s I Shall Be Released should end the concert – and that for a fair few reasons.  The song came out of the period that gave rise to The Basement Tapes, perhaps Dylan and The Band’s most creative collaboration.  As interest in the music made during this time has grown (thanks to Greil Marcus and others) so too has the importance of Scorsese’s film.

Scorsese comes across as a fan, though not always a knowledgeable one.  There’s a naivety or a fake naivety about some of his questions.  However, his interviews with The Band’s members are illuminating more often than not, Robbie Robertson being especially articulate and forthcoming.

If you want to understand American music of the ‘60s and ‘70s – or rock ‘n’ roll itself, come to that – you must see this film.  You must see it even if the scenes featuring Richard Manuel – knowing as we do his fate – are now kind of heart-breaking.  It’s showing again as a Matinee Classic on Wednesday, details here.

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