"Sonically pleasing but claustrophobic concert film"
I've never liked The Band. But I do like concert films in general, and this particular number was directed by Martin Scorsese--that was enough to get me into a theatre for this revamped, limited-run rerelease of The Band's final show.The Last Waltz features so many guest appearances--from Bob Dylan to to Neil Young to Ringo Starr to Van Morrison to (I couldn't believe it either) Neil fucking Diamond--that you suspect The Band was trying to condense Woodstock into a two-hour show. Watching these heavyweights jam on stage, though, produces some pretty exciting moments. If nothing else, The Last Waltz captures the pure joy of musicianship--you can't help but feel these guys are having fun up there, and it's infectious.
Interspersed with the concert footage are interviews with the band members, conducted by Scorsese, who squeezes some decent anecdotes out The Band. We also get some very weird moments: for no discernable reason, poet Michael McClure recites The Canterbury Tales to the audience, and counterculture hero Lawrence Ferlinghetti shows up to read a warped parody of the Lord's Prayer.
This is all well and good. But...
A concert film, above all, should communicate something of the immediacy and excitement of live performance. And here The Last Waltz, though certainly well recorded, falls short. You rarely get a sense of the ambience of the event. Very seldom do you catch a glimpse of the crowd; Scorsese keeps his camera on the musicians, thus giving us a more intimate look at the players than the live audience had. But this also gives the show an uncomfortably cramped feeling; for much of the film, The Band may well have been playing in front of an empty auditorium.You do, however, get to see Bob Dylan jamming with Neil Diamond. And that's not something you're likely to see again.