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Here now but unsung: DVD/Blu-ray "Last Waltz" pack

Although only Time magazine noticed amid the hooplah for the Blu-ray "Lord of the Rings," Martin Scorsese's "The Last Waltz," the movie of The Band's farewell concert that changed the eyes and ears of rockumentaries forever, came out Tuesday on a DVD/Blu-ray two-pack. It's lovingly photographed and recorded, brilliantly conceived and edited. Few films have ever tuned in an audience this closely to the unique rhythms and theatrics of musicians as different as Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. Even Scorsese's interviews harmonize with the performances. He draws out what being on the road meant to the Band, the transplanted Canadian group that revitalized American folk, jazz and R&B forms in a rock idiom.

Rock-concert films had always tended to screech and jitter. But in "The Last Waltz" the sound is both robust and pristine: you can hear a bass roar, or a pin drop. The cinematographer, Michael Chapman, and his virtuoso colleagues (including Vilmos Zsigmond and Laszlo Kovacs) work with impassioned lucidity. The editing fixes each Band member in your mind -- not just Levon Helm or Robbie Robertson or Richard Manuel, but Garth Hudson, who comes off as a cross between a church organist and the Phantom of the Opera, and Rick Danko, who resembles the young Robert De Niro. When all the guests join Dylan and the Band on the climactic "I Shall Be Released," the movie becomes an exhilarating vision of rock's polyglot vitality.

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(Left to right, above: Dr. John, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Rick Danko, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and Robbie Robertson.)

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