In many ways the definitive rock concert doc, Martin Scorsese’s THE LAST WALTZ feels as fresh and invigorating today as ever. Capturing what was billed as The Band’s last ever live performance in San Francisco on 25 November 1976, Scorsese’s film provides an intimate first-hand portrait of a group weary from 16 years on the road but still dedicated to their loyal following. The charismatic frontman Robbie Robertson is very much the focus, and at times his personality overshadows the film’s end-of-an-era undertones. As a piece of documentary cinema, however, THE LAST WALTZ is unmissable viewing, not least for the presence of rock royalty that peppers the footage, including Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond and Ringo Starr.
Bob Fosse’s stylishly directed and choreographed screen adaptation of John Kander’s fine musical based on Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin stories. With a chilling vision of Weimar Berlin, a city of gaiety and perversion, champagne and Nazi propaganda, CABARET features a show-stopping, Oscar-winning musical performance from Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey as the unforgettable emcee, and a truly extraordinary final fadeout.
A documentary record of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, JAZZ ON A SUMMER’S DAY is popularly hailed as one of the first and most influential live concert films. A who’s who of legendary jazz and rock ’n’ roll performers make up the impressive line-up, with director Stern’s deft, economical style capturing them in all their glory. In terms of stand-out turns it’s too close to call, but Chuck Berry’s rendition of ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ nestles pretty near the top of the pile, with Mahalia Jackson’s spine-tingling performance of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ closely jostling. The film set the template for the genre; WOODSTOCK and MONTEREY POP swiftly followed. JAZZ ON A SUMMER’S DAY is unquestionably essential viewing for music, archival and documentary fans alike.