Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Stop Making Sense is still a rocking good time

Swifties worldwide rejoiced when news broke last month that Taylor Swift would bring her current “Eras” tour to movie theaters across the US in October. Concert films are nothing new, though, as the eighties, nineties, and 2000s saw acts such as U2, Prince, and Jay-Z all released concert films.

I recently had a chance to experience Johnathan Demme’s eighth film, Stop Making Sense, in an IMAX 4K remaster. The concert film showcases a live performance by the rock band Talking Heads. During a three-night run at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater in December 1983, Demme filmed the footage while the group was on tour promoting their latest album, Speaking in Tongues.

Widely regarded as the greatest concert ever made, I primarily wanted to see the film for the post-Q&A hosted by the legendary Spike Lee, where interviews the group who have not had a reunion since their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002

Rather than adhering to the traditional approach of documenting a concert from start to finish, Stop Making Sense ingeniously builds momentum by gradually adding layers of music, dance, and spectacle. It masterfully captures the electrifying energy of the Talking Heads as they evolve from a stripped-down performance to an elaborate extravaganza, engaging the audience in an unforgettable journey.

David Byrne starts the concert alone on stage, playing “Psycho Killer” with just an acoustic guitar. As the performance progresses, other band members join in, transforming the show into a captivating spectacle with added instruments, lights, and props.

Every frame of Stop Making Sense is crafted purposefully, showcasing Demme’s incredible attention to detail. Whether it’s capturing the visceral emotions on Byrne’s face, the frantic dance moves of Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, or the astonishing percussion performances by Jerry Harrison, the film captures the essence of each band member’s contribution, allowing the viewer to connect with their collective artistry deeply.

The setlist is a carefully curated blend of Talking Heads classics, including “Burning Down the House,” “Take Me to the River,” and “Once in a Lifetime,” among others. Each performance is given new life on stage, with Byrne’s inimitable stage presence and eccentric choreography elevating each song to a new level. The band’s on-stage energy is contagious, leaving the audience enthralled, tapping their feet, and yearning for more.

Stop Making Sense is not just a concert film but a celebration of art, performance, and creativity. The film showcases the unique genius of the Talking Heads by juxtaposing the raw, human elements of music-making alongside the grandeur of a perfectly choreographed stage production. It is an invitation to witness the magic of a band that defies categorization, consistently pushing the boundaries of conventional rock music.

Stop Making Sense is a masterpiece of concert filmmaking that continues to captivate and inspire audiences decades after its release. With its jaw-dropping performances, innovative direction, and the raw talent of the Talking Heads, this documentary serves as a testament to the enduring power of their music.

Final Grade: A

Stop Making Sense will enter first as an exclusive IMAX exhibition on September 22 before heading to conventional theaters on September 29.

 

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Stop Making Sense is still a rocking good time

Stop Making Sense is still a rocking good time