Recently, I have become enamored with films centered on music. Some of these films, such as A Hard Day’s Night and Tommy, attempt to accentuate the narrative of particular songs and albums. Other, such as The Song Remains the Same and Woodstock, document some of the most famous concerts in music history. Regardless of the approach, these films help to bring out the human elements of the musicians. Although there are many great music films, none of them achieve the quality of the 1976 film The Last Waltz.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, The Last Waltz documents The Band’s farewell concert. Throughout their concert, The Band is joined by is joined by some of the greatest musicians of all time, such as Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, and Neil Young. In addition to the live performances, The Last Waltz contains interviews with members of the band reflecting on their career. In particular, the film focuses on The Band’s singer-songwriter Robbie Robertson and his decision to stop touring.
Overall, Martin Scorsese did a perfect job capturing the mood of the concert. In order to accomplish this, Scorsese implemented a variety of lighting techniques. From Joni Mitchell’s silhouette as she sings backstage to the blue light that shines down on Levon Helm during his performance of “Ophelia,” the lighting reflect the atmosphere of the performances. Not only did this film capture the escence of The Band, but it helped capture the feel of an entire generation of music. In the end, Martin Scorsese was able to create a masterpiece whose influence can be seen in every concert documentary that has been produced since.