Intimate Music: A History of the Idea of Chamber Music

By Neil Minturn; Micheal J. Budds | Go to book overview

APPENDIX 4

Three Critical Responses to The Last Waltz

I have included the full text of three significant reviews that greeted the distribution of the film in 1978. Two of them are written by American critics and are directed to the readers of popular mainstream current events magazines, Time and Newsweek. The third, by Michael Henry, appeared in Positif, a leading French journal devoted to serious film criticism.

Henry’s essay presents a dramatically different tone than the American reports. In a style that is more literary than journalistic, the author makes a number of assumptions about the reader’s knowledge and experience. For example, Henry presupposes the reader’s familiarity with Scorsese’s work as writer, editor, and director. Henry invokes the names of George Sidney, a veteran Hollywood director associated with elaborate MGM musicals, and Alain Masson, the distinguished film critic. Henry also invokes the name of Luchino Visconti, the Italian director who achieved fame for his neorealistic films after World War II and whose name and position Henry himself is sufficiently comfortable to ”adjectivate” into “Viscontian,” a word unavailable in my dictionary.


From Jack Kroll in Newsweek

The rock culture in America has had an intimate relationship with the movie camera. “Monterey Pop” caught the moment of astonished selfdiscovery by the powerful force, both creative and self-destructive, that spoke through such performers as Cass Elliot and Janis Joplin. By the time of “Woodstock,” that force had produced the exultant pathos of a nation within a nation, with its portable toilets, family freaking and Jimi Hendrix’s dissection, at once mournful and loving, of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” “Gimme Shelter” was the rock apocalypse, as the Rolling Stones “free” concert at Altamont produced a spasm of violence and death that undercut the theatrical demonism of Mick Jagger. The Last Waltz is the sweetest of all rock movies. Martin Scorsese’s beautiful record of the final concert by The Band and an all-star array of guest performers is an elegy for the hope and happiness that sang in rock music at its best.

Scorsese has a strong feeling for rock (he was an editor of ”Woodstock”), and he’s made “The Last Waltz” more than simply the finest of all rock-concert movies. The concert took place on Thanksgiving Day, 1976 at San Francisco’s Winterland, a former skating rink, where The Band had made its first national impact in 1969. With Michael

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