Stop Making Sense
(United States, 1984)
Before viewing Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense, I was not a Talking Heads fan. In fact, I don't know if I had ever heard a song performed by the group. That changed after I saw the film. It would be an exaggeration to say I was "converted", but I developed an appreciation for the Talking Heads that had previously been absent. Over the years, I have seen dozens of "concert films", and this one is by far the best - it comes the closest to anything I know of in capturing the "you are there" feeling of a concert (without the cannabis smoke - you have to supply that yourself). Stop Making Sense is 90 minutes of exhilarating music, without intermissions, interview interruptions, or backstage "extras". We're part of the audience, seeing what they're seeing, hearing what they're hearing, and experiencing what they're experiencing. And, as my first reaction to the film proves, you don't have to be a Talking Heads aficionado to appreciate the film (although, to be fair, you have to have a liking for this kind of music - die-hard Mozart buffs aren't likely to depart with a positive impression). Of course, if you come to Stop Making Sense with a prior love for the Talking Heads, watching this movie will be like being transported to heaven - or at least back 20 years to when the group was in its heyday.
Plot Summary (Spoilers Possible):
Despite being a concert film, Stop Making Sense possesses the skeleton of dramatic structure. The production is roughly divided into three segments. The first, which gradually builds as each band member comes on stage, reaches its climax with "Burning Down The House" and "Life During Wartime". The second segment begins with "Making Flippy Floppy" and ends with "Once In A Lifetime". The third part starts with the oddest of the movie's 16 songs - The Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love", a number that is out-of-synch with everything else (primarily because Byrne is not on stage). This is followed by "Girlfriend Is Better", which introduces the legendary Big Suit (an oversized suit worn by Byrne to make his head appear smaller - it does the trick), "Take Me To The River", and "Crosseyed And Painless".
Upon its release in 1984, Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense was hailed by many critics as the "greatest concert film of all time." The picture, which captured a live concert performance given by the Talking Heads, used state-of-the-art direct-to-digital re-recording and non-intrusive camera positioning and movement to capture the kinetic energy of the experience and replicate it for nationwide theatrical viewing. Even the movie's few detractors grudgingly admitted that Stop Making Sense was technically flawless. This movie is pure fun and sheer exuberance transferred onto celluloid and perfectly re-created at the other end. Experiencing what Demme and the Talking Heads have crafted with this motion picture makes perfect sense.
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