Film Review of “The Last Waltz”

“The Last Waltz” is a final concert-video performance of the Band in 1978 and is directed by Martin Scorsese. It is composed of the following Band members: Robbie Robertson who is their guitarist, Levon Helms who plays drums, Rick Danko who is their bassist, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson who are their pianist and instrumentalist organizer respectively. A few friends also joined to help them on stage. The band’s bel canto doubled with the fact that it was their farewell makes this concert-video souvenir for generations to come in the rock and roll music industry as they performed during the Thanksgiving at Winterland in San Francisco. The Band performs a number of original songs and some covers of other musician’s songs. This paper underscores the cinematographic aspect of Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Waltz” film in a descriptive persuasive writing.

It indeed is true that when something has when an occurrence or an event captures an instant in life, it usually is exhilarating. This was exactly what Martin Scorsese had in mind as he directed “The Last Waltz”. The camera movements are synced to the music and focus is solely on the live performance of the Band. The chemistry of the Band is ostensible in the way this kind of cinematography where the beat and performance of the Band is captured. The camera syncs Helm’s performance to the beat of the music, goes back and forth as Robertson and the friend, Clapton perform solo, it glides at the back of Ronnie Hawkins and his counterparts, and this gives pertinence to the importance of functions of the band as a single chugging group. The camera-framing of each performance particularly one on “The Shape I’m In” gives a retrospection on the degree of connection of the performers.

It was a cinematographic genius to commence the concert-video with the encore before switching the camera focus to the proper performance. The final interlude which is the performance of “Last Waltz Suite” captures the attention of the audience and serves to portend what the whole performance has been; a farewell! The camera retreats the focus from the guitar held by Robertson and captures also Danko’s upright bass, flips over to bring Manuel to the scene as he plays a lap-guitar. Further on, Helm with the mandolin is brought to focus as Hudson is shown at the back of a collection of musical instruments. The Band plays together bringing out a prodigious musical fusion and performance that holds the attention of the audience. The camera is moved farther continuously and constantly to the extent that the shadows of the Band overwhelm them. The camera rolls further until darkness surrounding the Band dwarfs them as the concert culminates.

This concert was shot in a warm radiance of classic cinema lighting which rendered it dramatic and timeless. The camera shots did not interfere with the mood and further emphasized on the performers’ attires which were not bright, most of them black or non-radiant colors probably to signify an end of an era of performance. The decision to flip and rotate the cameras in tandem with the fusion of the music brought about euphoric and regrets feeling. The idea to focus the camera on faces of the performers rather than instruments meant that the director gives the audience the ability to examine the physical and emotional chemistry that the Band had, and more importantly inscribes the performance of the Band members in the hearts of the audiences as an epic and historic performance in rock industry.