The Last Waltz is the greatest concert film ever made. Period. Someone out there is going to claim that U2 had the greatest, or one of the films about the festivals in the 60s – Newport or Woodstock or Altamont – but the truth is that The Last Waltz is a great concert film because it doesn’t look much like a concert film. It often just looks like a film. It’s a lesson, by the way, that Jonathan Demme learned and applied in his concert films.
Last year’s No Direction Home, Scorsese’s documentary about the early years of Bob Dylan, was one of the best music biodocs I have ever seen. I actually thought Marty would win his long-awaited Oscar for that one, to tell you the truth.
So the evidence shows that Martin Scorsese isn’t just our pre-eminent crime filmmaker, he’s one of the most important chroniclers of music on film. And now he’s turned his attention to the Rolling Stones.
The film, as yet untitled, will focus on the band’s current A Bigger Bang tour, as well as looking back at their history. Scorsese shot the Stones playing Sunday night at New York City’s Beacon Theater for President Clinton’s birthday; he’s filming more footage there tonight. He has also shot the band playing recently in Austin, Texas.
I’m interested in what tack Scorsese is taking here. The angle on The Band was obvious – The Last Waltz documented their final show together. No Direction Home is about the mystery of young Bob Dylan’s change and growth. The Stones are a band so beyond their prime that they’ve sort of stopped being a joke, and I hope that Scorsese focuses on old men playing a young man’s game – something Scorsese himself still does, and something he acknowledged at the press junket for The Departed. He said that it’s harder and harder for him to get the enthusiasm up to do the work.
Albert Maysles will be providing some of the footage, which is damn exciting as well – he has shot some backstage stuff already. Paramount has picked up the film, and they expect to distribute it at the end of 2007.