Classic Film Review: Stop Making Sense

Full Title: Stop Making Sense
Director: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Talking Heads and various special guests
Year: 1984
Set List:

1) Psycho Killer
2) Heaven
3) Thank You for Sending Me an Angel
4) Found a Job
5) Slippery People
6) Burning Down the House
7) Life During Wartime
8) Making Flippy Floppy
9) Swamp
10) What a Day That Was
11) This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)
12) Once in a Lifetime
13) Genius of Love
14) Girlfriend is Better
15) Take Me to the River

Encore:

16) Crosseyed and Painless

Comments:
Stop Making Sense? When did the Talking Heads ever make sense?! Haha, of course their brand of weirdness, a “good” weirdness is exactly what made the Talking Heads, the Talking Heads. The other night I had the pleasure of revisiting this 1984 classic via a screening at the Sommerville Theater. I had been a fan of the live CD Stop Making Sense for years, but never got around to seeing it’s cinematic coutnerpart. Well, what better a venue than the Sommerville Theater?! And it was. The sound was a tad lower than desired, but besides that it fit really well for this presentation. Now to the film itself. David Byrne kicks things off with the TH classic, “Psycho Killer,” just Byrne himself gently rocking out on acoustic guitar with a tape player. As the song reaches its final moments, Byrne stumbles to the beat. He fake trips then catches himself, then again and again; fitting perfectly with the music. Next, the nerdy, neurotic singer is accompanied by his bandmate, Tina Weymouth (who is looking rather attractive here) on bass. The two launch into an impassioned, acoustic version of “Heaven.” And with each song another member hits the stage to join the circus. It should be noted that the Talking Heads put on an extremely entertaining show with incredible energy, charisma, and showmanship, without any of the big theatrics, i.e. light shows, back drop videos, etc. (at least in the first half of the film), oft-seen in such concert films. This speaks volumes for how well they can captivate an audience with just themselves as the visual stimulants; essentially less is more. They use a lot of light humor in their approach, such antics as the “Running Man” dance; at one point Byrne acutally runs around the whole stage at full speed! We also see him playfully push a lampshade back and forth, each time catching it at the last second just as it is about to hit the floor, amongst other weird, but amusing stunts. Byrne and crew seriously dance their asses off as the tunes become heavier and funkier. Songs that stood out in particular included “Burning Down the House,” “Life During Wartime,” and “Once In a Lifetime.” Perhaps they stood out to me because they are some of the bigger songs and/or some of my favorite TH numbers, but either way the performances were near perfect. Without a doubt, the most iconic moment in the picture is when we see the fabulous frontman in his lovely “Big Suit,” once again a bizarre, humorous, and ultimately memorable element of the Talking Heads’ craft. All in all, there is very little to nothing I can say bad about this movie. My one complaint, (a very small one) is that at some points it drags a bit on some of the tracks I am less enthusiastic about, such as “What a Day That Was” and “Girlfriend Is Better.” I feel like it wouldn’t have hurt to do some time truncating in these areas. Probably just me, but in the long run, this didn’t really harm my opinion of the performance. In short, for concert films this is top notch and certainly sets the bar for competition.

Grade: A/A-

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