Stop Making Sense – 20th Anniversary

Director: Jonathan Demme

1984| Colour| 88 mins USA

Talking Heads first came to prominence in New York in the late 1970’s when, together with acts like Television and Patti Smith, they were at the forefront of the city’s art-rock scene. Stop Making Sense was filmed over three nights on their 1983 tour of America, when the bad wa s at the height of its critical and commercial appeal. Director Jonathan Demme saw them play and immediately wanted to film the performance. The pairing of Demme , an avid fan who has used popular music to excellent effect in his films, and David Byrne, main man of the band and a visual artist in his own right, was inspired. The pair created what has often been hailed as the best concert movie ever made. Even critic Pauline Kael, who is usually scathing about rock movies, described Stop Making Sense as ‘a dose of happiness from beginning to end’.
What is unique about this film is its way of making the cinema spectator genuinely feel like a member of the concert audience. This is thanks to Demme’s clever idea of refusing to show audience reaction until towards the climax of the show, by wh i ch time the viewer has been fully engaged. It begins with Byrne walking across an empty stage and setting down a ghetto blaster before shyly announcing, ‘I’ve got a tape I wanna play’. From then on, the primary conceit of the show is the gradual construction of both the stage set and the band around Byrne. The film contains most of the band’s greatest songs: ‘Psycho Killer’, ‘Burning Down the House’ and the classic ‘Once in a Lifetime’

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