During a recent chat with Rolling Stone about his new documentary The 50 Year Argument, which chronicles the rise and influence of The New York Review of Books, director Martin Scorsese looked back on one of his most famous docs, the Band's The Last Waltz.
In this excerpt, Scorsese discusses the experimental nature of the film, specifically how it functioned as a musical tapestry by presenting the Band's music alongside the various strains of American music — from Mississippi Delta blues to the early pop of the Brill Building — that had influenced them.
While capturing those legendary performances was one thing, compiling all of them into the film was the true challenge. "Editing is the filmmaking itself, and so I've always been involved in the editing from the very, very beginning," Scorsese says. "It had to be just felt. Sometimes you couldn't really express it in words. It just felt more comfortable or it felt like it flowed better visually, or moved in tone. And it's something I can't define, but it's nerve-wracking and its anxiety-producing — but it's what we like to do."
Since The Last Waltz, Scorsese has made a number of films centered around music, and has a few in the works currently, including a rock n' roll drama about the music industry for HBO that he's been working on with Mick Jagger. The filmmaker is also reportedly attached to direct an upcoming movie about the Ramones, while he's set to produce an official documentary on the Grateful Dead that's being directed by Amir Bar-Lev. And fans of the Band will definitely want to check out Rolling Stone's original documentary The Return to Big Pink, in which musician Garth Hudson revisits the house where Bob Dylan and the Band recorded the seminal Basement Tapes for the first time in 47 years.