The Last Waltz

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The Last Waltz
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Produced by Robbie Robertson
Starring The Band
Eric Clapton
Neil Diamond
Dr. John
Bob Dylan
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Joni Mitchell
Van Morrison
Ringo Starr
Muddy Waters
Bill Graham
Martin Scorsese
Release date(s) April 26, 1978
Running time 117 min
Language English
IMDb profile

The Last Waltz is the name of The Band's final concert, the Martin Scorsese concert film, and the album of the concert.

The Band, consisting of Levon Helm on drums, mandolin and vocals, Rick Danko on bass and vocals, Garth Hudson on organ, Richard Manuel on keys, occasional percussion and vocals, and Robbie Robertson as guitarist and primary songwriter, had been touring for 16 years before deciding to disband.

They held their final concert at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, and made rock music history by compiling one of the most extensive lineups of prominent guest performers at a single concert. The venue was chosen as it was the first venue the group played under the name "The Band". The concert was not so much a farewell show, but more of a celebration of the group themselves and their close friends and biggest influences.

Held on Thanksgiving, November 25, 1976, the audience was fed turkey dinner and there was ballroom dancing prior to the show. Bill Graham promoted and staged the evening's events.

Guest musicians who performed with The Band included:

The Band also performed songs without guests, and informal jams also took place. Poets Michael McClure and Lawrence Ferlinghetti gave readings.

Robbie Robertson wanted to record the concert on video. He recruited Scorsese to direct based on his use of music in films like Mean Streets. Scorsese and Robertson became life-long friends. Under Scorsese's direction, the film metastasized into a full-scale studio production with seven 35mm cameras. The cameras were operated by a group of the most respected cinematographers in the film industry, including Michael Chapman (Raging Bull), Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), and Laszlo Kovacs (Easy Rider). The stage and lighting were designed by Boris Levin, who had designed such classics as West Side Story and The Sound of Music.

Following the concert, Scorsese shot for several days in the MGM studios, during which he filmed The Band playing duets with The Staple Singers and Emmylou Harris.

Scorsese and Robertson lived together during the editing of the film, and Scorsese's commitments to other projects delayed the release of the film until 1978. Scorsese decided to use a slight flashback effect by opening the film showing The Band's final encore in the concert (Don't Do It) and then going backwards to the beginning of the show. Scorsese has since acknowledged that he and Robertson were heavily involved with drugs during the production and this may have contributed to the air of desperation which runs through the film. The finished film featured concert footage interspersed with interviews of the band, as well as an original score written by Robertson, and additional studio performances of The Band featuring The Staple Singers and Emmylou Harris. It has been acclaimed as the greatest concert film ever made at the time and has since become a classic.

Levon Helm (in his autobiography This Wheel's On Fire) expressed serious reservations about Scorsese's handling of the film, claiming that the film was shot to make The Band look like Robbie Robertson's side-men, specifically complaining about Manuel's and Hudson's minimal screen time. He also stated that Robertson, who was depicted as singing such powerful backing vocals, was actually singing into a microphone that was turned off throughout most of the concert, and that much of the soundtrack was overdubbed.

The clearest example supporting Helm's position is the climactic performance, I Shall be Released where Manuel sings part of the song (as he did on Music from Big Pink with Bob Dylan (who wrote the song) but the viewer sees only either the whole array of performers (besides Manuel, who is hidden behind them) or Robertson, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. In fact there are several shots catching Ronnie Hawkins looking around but not singing, yet Manuel is invisible. At issue is why. During the same segment, in the background, it appears that a cameraman may be attempting to get a shot of Manuel at the piano but gives up due to technical problems or the impossibility of the shot.

Many fans have demanded a more definitive version of the film including unreleased and unedited songs that appeared on the album but not in the film but Scorsese and Robertson have insisted that this is THE intended version and that no altered or extended "Director's Cut" or "Special Editions" will be released. The DVD release did include in its special features section an extra scene with a loose jam featuring Stephen Stills (who showed-up late), however this was cut short due to the excessive heat generated by the cameras that forced them to shut down. They had been running for over ten hours by this time.

Rob Reiner's appearance and interview style in his mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap is widely believed to be a reference to the way Martin Scorsese conducted interviews in The Last Waltz. Reiner's documentarian moniker, "Marty DiBergi," is clearly a play on Scorsese's name.

The officially released LPs were marked by heavy overdubbing and resequencing; collectors have circulated an original line recording of the concert as a more accurate document of the event. In 2002, an expanded edition of the concert was released on a 4-CD box set and a sonically enhanced DVD-Audio edition.

Sony has announced that The Last Waltz will be among the first twenty titles released in its new high definition Blu-Ray DVD format in March of 2006.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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it:L'ultimo valzer hu:Az utolsó valcer ja:ラスト・ワルツ simple:The Last Waltz sv:The Last Waltz

The Last Waltz

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