THE LAST WALTZ has been called one the best music documentaries ever made. It's not. Chronicling a very good—but not transcendent—concert that turned out to be the Band's last performance with their original lineup, it's most notable for the murderers' row of guests who graced San Francisco's Winterland stage that Thanksgiving night in 1976. (It's worth mentioning that the film's best moment, the Staple Singers performing with the Band on a definitive version of "The Weight," was created entirely on a soundstage.) Unlike most documentaries, The Last Waltz is not a look behind the scenes or an attempt to tell the backstory behind the music; it is itself theater, a calculated and polished presentation of its own. It's mythmaking, and it works very well as such.
It helps with a storyteller as gifted as Martin Scorsese at the reins. No other major American director has folded film and music together as often and effectively—in particular, his use of the Ronettes and the Rolling Stones on the soundtrack of Mean Streets, and Peter Gabriel's gorgeous, unearthly score for The Last Temptation of Christ. Scorsese got an early break as assistant director of the era-defining Woodstock documentary, and also was a cameraman at Woodstock's antithesis, Altamont (that footage ended up in Gimme Shelter). Since then, Scorsese has made what could be termed rock 'n' roll movies, with plots and pictures that thrum and rattle to the electrifying clang of their soundtracks—right up to the deluge of familiar tunes that appear in The Wolf of Wall Street: As soon as we grasp a lick from Howlin' Wolf, or a phrase from Cannonball Adderley, or a beat from Naughty by Nature... the music is burned up and gone in a flash, like so many of stockbroker Jordan Belfort's quick fixes.
The Last Waltz screening will be accompanied by five specially brewed, rock-themed IPAs from Lompoc Brewing. Sadly, there will be no "Neil Young Coke Booger Ale" or "Marshmallow Overcoat Stout," but Beatles and Led Zeppelin themed beers will be available.