I hadn’t watched Scorsese’s The Last Waltz in years so I threw it on last night. If anything, it’s even better than I remembered. The Band was no great live act in their later years, but they really turned it on in those performances, with Robbie Robertson really shining. Most of the guest performances hold up as well. When I first watched this, I didn’t appreciate Joni Mitchell, but her version of “Coyote” is excellent. Clapton’s velour coat still amazes. I still don’t think Van Morrison’s performance was too great. But of course the stuff with Dylan is great and Muddy Waters just tears the roof off this place, showing these white people how to perform a song.
As for the interviews, it’s clear now why Scorsese made this basically a Robertson feature. He’s just that much more charismatic than the others. He’s a better storyteller and he is a great conversational speaker. Why Levon turned against the film so hard later is a bit hard to understand. He claimed that it made him look bad, but both he and Rick Danko sound great in both interviews and performances. Yeah, Richard Manuel is definitely a complete mess. And Garth Hudson clearly wanted as little to do with all this hoopla as possible, but that’s just his personality. But Levon is great in it so I guess he just couldn’t get over his axe with Robbie. I dunno, maybe if he and Danko and Manuel had gotten around to writing some songs instead of drinking all the time since 1969, they would have had more to do…..
Anyway, still an astounding film and one of Scorsese’s very best.