I absolutely loved getting to see this movie, which I’d never seen before, on the big screen at a local theater. I confess, I don’t even have the slightest idea why it screened for two days at the local arthouse; there’s usually some reason for these classic screenings, but I remain ignorant in this case. Not that I care, because the film was so immersive, so intensely great that I was just dazzled for the entire nearly two hour running time. The film captures an extensive portion of the farewell concert of the Band and the roster of guests is incredibly impressive, too impressive really to even attempt to name the standouts. And now I’ll name the standouts: Ronnie Hawkins’ insane version of Who Do You Love?; Clapton’s uber-cool rendition of Further On Up the Road; The Staple Singers’ gospelly rendition of The Weight; basically every single thing Levon Helm does – his drumming seems to essentially be a rhythmic seizure. But it’s ridiculous to keep talking about the music. Scorsese wisely realizes that the best parts of a music documentary is the music, so he keeps the talking head/back-stage interviews to a bare minimum. Very nearly the entire running time is just wonderful, entertaining, high-energy music and this may now be my favorite music documentary. Actually I’m pretty sure it is. There are a couple of missteps; Neil Diamond is weirdly out of place and Joni Mitchell, an artist I typically love, is strangely mediocre. But those are minor complaints and not serious enough to keep this film from being a great one. It captures a load of legends at the height or near the height of their powers and the music almost never stops. What a masterpiece. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – astoundingly great concert film focuses on the music, instead of back-stage drama, and with this roster of legends and this set of songs, that’s the right decision. 4 stars.