Music in Motion: Concert Movies Directed by Famous Filmmakers


rockconcertwallgraphicA  few weeks ago I had the chance to watch a few concert movies on the big screen with a bunch of friends.    The first two I watched were “The Last Waltz” directed by Martin Scorsese, and “Stop Making Sense” Directed by Jonathan Demme.  The last one I watch at home was “Duran Duran: Unstaged” Directed by David Lynch.


The Last Waltz
Musicians:  The Band with a lot of  special guests
Director Martin Scorsese

thelastwaltz1Before anything even starts, you are treated to a title card that reads.  “This movie should be played loud”  Now that is how you begin a movie.  Especially one that is considered to be one of the greatest concert movies of all time.   “The Last Waltz” is the farewell concert documentary of the group known simply as The Band.   Filmed on Thanksgiving Night on 1976  and featuring special guests including Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and Muddy Waters.  To be honest with you, I have never heard of this group before seeing this movie.  I just knew that it was directed by Martin Scorsese.  I have heard of some of the special guests before but I have never heard of The Band.  I may have seen the name, The Band.  But, I have never heard them play before.  So how was the music?  Well, it was good and all of the songs were a lot of fun.  But, I wouldn’t go out and buy their albums.  The really cool thing was watching all of the behind the scenes interviews that Scorsese did with the members of The Band between each song.  It was fun hearing about all of their stories while on the road. I also liked that you got to hear each song in it’s entirety instead of just snippets like in other concert movies.   Several cinematographers helped out Scorsese with the concert footage including Vilmos Zsigmond(“Blow Out“) , Michael Chapman(“Raging Bull“) and Lazlo Kovacs(“Ghostbusters“).  It was kind of cool seeing their names on the credits and remembering where they went with their careers.    I can understand why it’s regarded as one of the best but it did not make me fully love the music.


 Stop Making Sense.
Musicians: The Talking Heads and The Tom Tom Club
Director: Jonathan Demme

Stop-Making-SenseBefore watching this , I knew  a few Talking Heads songs.   “Burning Down The House”, “Once in a Lifetime, and “Psycho Killer” were songs I liked, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan.  They were just songs I could listen to but I never had any urge to really check out their other stuff. After watching this concert movie, I have a lot more admiration and respect for them then I did..  They have so much energy on stage that it becomes addictive and it made me love the music even more.  I first saw clips of this on the documentary “20 Feet From Stardom“.  That one focused on the background singers Lynn Mabry and Ednah Holt, and seeing them dance and get down with David Byrne and the rest of the group was a lot of fun.  The biggest highlight was when bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz took the stage minus Byrne to do their hit “Genius of Love” as their side group The Tom Tom Club.  Miss Weymouth is a great singer and an amazing bassist.   I was impressed with all of the musicians including Keyboardist Bernie Worell(formerly of Parliment-Funkadelic) but it was Weymouth’s funky and fun bass riffs that kept me engaged throughout the whole show.   Jonathan Demme would go on to big acclaim with “The Silence of The Lambs” many years later, but this was a very good debut.  The good sign of any concert movie is that if It can me make into a fan of a group I hardly know much about.  Then it is a winner for me.  Even if you are not a fan of their style of music.  I would still recommend it because by the end you will be singing along to it with the rest of the crowd.  This is the best one I have seen so far.


Duran Duran: Unstaged
Musicians: Duran Duran with Special Guests
Director:  David Lynch

DUranDoes anyone remember taking any video classes back in the late 90’s at a public access TV station or at High School.  There was a lot of video editing software that could make you alter what you shot in post production.  You could change the color, add extra images, and just experiment with the medium.  There are a lot of great filmmakers who got their start with short films and music videos including Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and David Fincher.  When I heard that David Lynch is going to be directing a concert movie of 80’s pop,synth, rockers Duran Duran,I was very interested.  I may not be the world’s biggest Duran Duran fan, but they did make some good songs and  they deserved a little more respect then to have David Lynch just tack on a bunch of weird imagery to their concert.  Now, I am a fan of Mr Lynch and have enjoyed 95% of the movies he’s made, but this simply was not very good.   It was like I was watching some amateur draw all over a video that he’s found.  If it did something to make the music stand out, that would be great but it’s just distracting.  During one song, he shows us an image of a fork, and then shows us the same fork but it’s now in a frame .  There is a bad video effect of what looks like rain during one song, and there’s even a picture of a cheaply drawn wolf superimposed over the band for their hit of “Hungry Like The Wolf”.  If you were a fan of this group, I can imagine  many of you being very upset with this concert.  You wanted to hear and see Duran Duran.  Not watch David Lynch jerk off all over the screen.  I’m excited for the new season of “Twin Peaks” and I hope that he gets back to making feature length movies again.  But  David Lynch should stay away from concert movies.  If he wanted to direct music videos, that’s fine.  Just don’t do another concert film.


Well that’s all folks for this time.  Let me know in the comments what concert movies you have liked.  Be sure to check out these other great sites for their reviews of music and concert movies.

Movies and Songs 365

Public Transportation Snob. Marathon 29: That was a rocking show.

About The Vern

I love movies and I enjoy writing about them too. They both go pretty much hand in hand with each other and it's fun to discover new classics. I co host the podcasts The Film Pasture, ScreenTrax, and soon Cinema Recall. While also contributing reviews and articles to other great sites when I can.
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4 Responses to Music in Motion: Concert Movies Directed by Famous Filmmakers

  1. ninvoid99 says:

    One of my favorite concert films is Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars by D.A. Pennebaker about David Bowie’s last show as Ziggy Stardust. It’s just absolutely powerful while its grainy look isn’t for everyone. I do love Stop Making Sense while I also like The Last Waltz though I had issues with the film as it regards to Robbie Robertson trying to showcase himself as the genius of the band.

  2. Chris says:

    Thanks for the mention! Of those three, I’ve only seen Stop Making Sense (1984). I agree the band go all out in a very energetic show, dancing, running, jumping around. I love how he at the 30 min mark ironically asks, does anyone have any questions? And they all just yell and cheer. The music is great live.

  3. The Vern says:

    It’s a really fun movie. I want to see True Stories now. Thanks for reading and you are welcome.

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