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This concert/movie is simply a brilliant collaboration of music and film. First off, you have the Talking Heads, perhaps one of the most creative and interesting bands in the history of music who put on a concert that is so imaginative that I still cannot believe it happened. Second, you have veteran Director Johnathan Demme who brings the darkness and creepiness that he used in such films as Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, to a concert with sort of a dark and creepy demeanor, i.e. David Byrne in general, the style of music, the dancing. I mean dark and creepy in a good way however. I cannot help to think that this movie is also a comedy. David Byrne's movements, the bass players dancing, the songs and just everything i get a kick out of. I have always been a big fan of the Talking Heads, but after seeing this movie, my love for them skyrockets. They are a unbelievable band with an imagination that rivals that of the likes of Shel Silverstein and the Cohen Brothers. I could literally go on and on about how brilliant this movie is. I think the next time i watch it, i may actually get up and dance. I only wish that I could have been at the actual show. I also cannot figure out what I like better, The Last Waltz or this. Shame on anybody who badmouths this movie or the band in general. See this and then see it again and again and again. 10/10
After getting my DVD player, this is one of the first discs I bought. I
first saw this movie in the eighties as a fan of the music and was
completely floored by a band at their peak. Since then, I've grown to
appreciate good cinema as much as music, and I now look at Stop Making Sense
from a slightly different perspective.
The movie stands up by any measure of cinematic quality - the direction, the photography, the lighting, the set design, the editing, the performances of the 'actors'. Everything is unquestionably good. A couple of illustrations -
During 'Once in a Lifetime', the camera holds on David Byrne, framing him from the waist up, and doesn't leave him until the very last moments of the song. His performance is absolutely enthralling. I've been trying to think of a movie where an actor holds one shot for so long, and I can't.
The photography and lighting during 'What a Day That Was' are beautiful. The stark white up-lighting reduces a large auditorium and stage to a claustrophobic collage of shadows. The effect is not unlike some scenes in Charles Laughton's 'Night of the Hunter'.
In contrast to some other views posted here, I think the Tom Tom Club's appearance adds a colourful punctuation to the flow of the movie.
The DVD is one of the very few I've come across where the commentary is worth listening to. It switches between all four band members plus Jonathan Demme, and the anecdotes are constantly interesting and often very funny. As a package, this is one of the most satisfying DVD's I own. All the extras are worthwhile and well presented, unlike most 'Special Editions' which are crammed full of junk you wouldn't normally give a second look.
It's a pity that, by its nature, Stop Making Sense will only ever appeal to a small audience, because it deserves to be revered by fans of cinema as well as music. The rock movie genre has only a handful of classics to its name, but Stop Making Sense is its Citizen Kane, its Exorcist, its Godfather, its Star Wars. It really is that good.
'Stop Making Sense' is more than simply a concert film. It is pure
cinema. It engages all of the senses, it creates a mood, it establishes
an atmosphere, it has narrative logic, and it jolts the viewer with
electric energy. You can't sit still while watching this. You can't
keep your head from bobbing, or your mouth from moving, if you know the
words to the songs.
Twenty years later, the sound and image of Talking Heads still feels new, maybe even post-new. It's frightening to look at this film and then consider that all of the Talking Heads are now in their fifties, and David Byrne's hair is as white as Steve Martin's. Byrne's music has mellowed just as people mellow with age, and his fascinating career along with the direction it's taken is emblematic of the excitement that youth brings to an artist's work. To watch 'Stop Making Sense' is to be alive, and for someone who never had and probably never will have the opportunity to see Talking Heads live, and even for those who have, it is a blessing to have a film such as this to preserve the unmatched innovation and energy of this band. Watching David Byrne perform in this film is an awesome sight. Schwarzenegger and Stallone were never this thrilling.
It's a good thing that the Talking Heads broke up when they did. I
mean, could you imagine them slogging it out today, playing the state
fair circuit, or worse, the street fair circuit? No, watch this film.
See a band at its creative and energetic peak. Remember them as they
were over the two or three days in which it was filmed. Of course, you
must watch David Byrne. He would make his entire body a performance
art. He would contort, jog, dance, leap, and even make his clothes a
But, watch Tina Weymouth...
Tina is a very visual performer too. She says almost nothing, letting her bass guitar speak for her. And while David goes over the top often, Tina is subtle and sublime. With her body moves as she dances in place. With her facial expressions, her smiles, occasional raised eyebrows, and glances. Then when the action shifts to the Tom Tom Club (in order to give David a break and allow him to change into his big suit), her big moment is for one song only--"Genius of Love" but man does she seize the moment and make it all her own! Rounding out the Talking Heads of course are drummer Chris Frantz (Tina Weymouth's husband for over 30 years now) and guitarist/keyboardist Jerry Harrison. When Chris takes the stage, he bounds up onto the riser, bows, and with a big smile, gets drumming. He is clearly enjoying himself during this and at the end of the show, he jubilantly throws his sticks into the audience. Jerry is a little harder to get a bead on. At times he's clearly enjoying himself, particularly on BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE. Other times he seems a little detached.
Rounding out the touring band are Alex Weir on lead guitar, Bernie Worrel on keyboards, Edna Holt and Lynn Marbry on back-up vocals, and Steve Scales on percussion. None are treated as sidemen, rather as an integral part of the show.
It has been commented that some "sweetening" of the sound was done. But I believe that it was to achieve sound consistency. I have heard several concert films with terrible audio (RUST NEVER SLEEPS comes to mind). Seeing this movie is what made me a Talking Heads fan back in 1985. Finding a copy at the used book store in 2006 is what helped me re-discover them.
It would be easy to dismiss the Talking Heads as all visual as all David Byrne. Such is not the case. The songwriting and musicianship was solid throughout the band's career. The band remained together for several more years, scoring several additional hits including AND SHE WAS, LADY DON'T MIND, & WILD WILD LIFE. They called it quits as a band in 1991, although all four members have remained active in music.
I bought this film without ever having seen it. I liked the Talking Heads and had heard about the movie. Suffice it to say that I was amazed! The genious of starting with just a bare stage with David Byrne singing his sublime live version of Psycho Killer, then adding equiptment and band members was so weird, so brilliant. The energy and stamina shown by Mr. Byrne in this film borders on creepy. Was there a mountain of coke backstage, or is he a marathon runner? Not for me to know. How he was able to bend that far backwards during Once In A Lifetime I'll never know! All in all a real concert experience, combining the brilliance and showmanship of the Talking Heads with a master director like Jonathan Demme. It's no wonder that their compilation, Sand In The Vaseline, includes two live tracks seen on the film.
I saw this movie when it was released. In our town (Sarasota, Florida then) it was a midnight movie in the theater next to 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show'. I played in a band at the time and was a fan of the Talking Heads so I was stoked to see the film. A band-mate and I went opening night and were blown away. People were dancing in the aisles by about the third song. We went back the next night and several nights there after with our girlfriends and others and had a blast. Our friends weren't particularly fans of the talking heads but they loved the movie. Most of us though the first time through just watched in awe. and when you left after just watching it and absorbing it you were speechless (ar at best unintelligible) for about 20 minutes after. It truly was that kind of film. As said elsewhere after seeing it you wonder why no other concert films have even attempted to emulate "Stop Making Sense". I suppose they figured they would just look lame or they just didn't get it.(or maybe some of both). If you don't want to buy it at least rent it (then you WILL want to buy it). This is the concert film all the others want to be when they grow up.
Before I saw Stop Making Sense I had never been particularly concerned
with The Talking Heads, or lead-singer and solo-artist David Byrne.
Indeed, I had always been a fan of certain songs, such as "Burning Down
the House" and "Psycho Killer", but I had never actually spent time
becoming acquainted with the band's music on the whole. However, Stop
Making Sense was something I was desperate to view, due to the
substantial amount of praise that had been garnered over the years
since its release. Now it is safe to say that The Talking Heads rank
among my favourite bands, thanks to this masterpiece of musical art.
Essentially, Stop Making Sense is a showcase of the band's collected works. Throughout the 90-minute running-time the concert simultaneously covers the back-catalogue of The Talking Heads, through fluid, non-stop vibrancy. From "Found a Job" and "Take Me to the River" the work is merely a sample of the group's ability to provide some of the most engaging live shows ever recorded. To say that the film is "original" would be an understatement, given that the title still rings true today. Stop Making Sense defines the band's abilities, attitudes, styles and motifs. The New Wave approach the film takes is stylistically engaging to such an extent that it is virtually impossible to draw your eyes away from the screen. Minimalist set-pieces move along with the mood of the music at such a rate that much of the picture feels like a kaleidoscope of blistering sound and trancelike imagery.
David Byrne is the key constituent; bestowing his stage presence, creativity and musical proficiency. His stage dynamics are let loose during Stop Making Sense. The infamously over-sized business suit donned by David Byrne is otherworldly, just like the viewing experience, which transports you into a deep-seated, vivacious trance. Yet it is the suit which distinguishes the work completely. The fact that a regular item of clothing can have the ability to make the wearer seem out-of-proportion and disfigured is both mystifying and captivating. Even more bizarre is that the suit seems to grow relatively larger as the concert progresses. Personal interpretation could be that the suit is an implicative metaphor for the irony of the business world or conformity; on the other hand it could just be about not making sense.
Academy award winning director Jonathan Demme does not just "get the gist of The Talking Heads". Instead he is able to comprehend the themes of the band's work from an unmistakably refined tone that he captures through his direction. The irregularity of the group may be hard for some viewers to swallow, but that can be expected from a group which make music of an acquired taste. As for the choreography, it seems there is none, since the musicians all behave in a volatile and limitless manner. The progressively shifted set-pieces convey the altered reality that you have become apart of, and are an extraordinary example of unbound craftsmanship. Stop Making Sense ultimately displays the band's antics from their perspective; this is due to the extended takes of the performers and the lack of audience shots (the fans can only be seen during wide shots or when the camera moves behind the performers). There are even moments where the viewer effectively becomes apart of the band. A prime example of this manoeuvre is when the camera swings behind drummer Chris Frantz and faces the audience during the rendition of "Thank You for Sending me an Angel."
Characteristically speaking it is hopeless trying to describe the feeling you receive while viewing Stop Making Sense. This is because when seen and heard the mind becomes so fixated with the audacious madness of the piece that every viewer will react differently. Personally, this is the concert which I would irrefutably name as the finest ever recorded, maybe you will too.
"Stop Making Sense" cemented the Talking Heads' place as the Beatles of
college rock, capturing the band in all its art-funk glory. Part
performance art, part low-key workout, "Stop Making Sense" benefits
from a set of 16 quality songs, an ever-changing visual style that
never loses its inventiveness, and a lead performance by David Byrne
that has to be seen to be believed.
He jogs around the stage. He bends his body in weird contortions. He puts on a really big suit. From the beginning to end, he has his shirt collar buttoned to the top like a Catholic schoolboy, and I'm not sure how or why.
"How" and "why" are words that pop up a lot while watching this. Talking Heads were weird even for the punk/new wave crowd; they wore their hair like accountants, mined everything from disco to doo-wop to African exotica for their sound, and pulled off the trick of being both mocking and reverential. So whether it's Byrne dancing with a living-room lamp or words like "facelift" and "sandwich" appearing on screen, the viewer is well advised to follow the advice of the title and just let the goofy, heady mess roll over you. You'll probably find yourself having a bit of fun.
It helps if you like their music. You don't hear much of it these days it seems. People know "Life During Wartime" and "Once In A Lifetime," while "Take Me To The River" and "Burning Down The House" were Top 40 hits in the U.S. But the most familiar tune here is probably the one non-Talking Heads song, "Genius Of Love," which is performed by the band's Byrne-less incarnation, the Tom Tom Club. That's because Mariah Carey sampled it (read "sang over it") for one of her big hits, "Fantasy."
Frankly, the band as individuals aren't all that interesting. They don't play off each other or the audience in any way, leaving it to Byrne to sell each song. Jerry Harrison, one of the four Heads, seems AWOL even on the middle of the stage. Bringing up a few session players like Bernie Worrell, the P-Funk keyboardist, helps the film avoid this "boring white guys playing their music" trap at least somewhat, though if the mission of this film is to introduce us to the Talking Heads, it's certainly no "Hard Day's Night" or "Last Waltz."
But the songs are good, and Byrne works through his bemused detachment to become quite passionate on some selected numbers. His "Once In A Lifetime" is one of the great screen performances of 1984. Goofy lighting sets up "Swamp" and "What A Day That Was" and there's oddball tricks aplenty throughout. I like the lower-key "Heaven," a wistful number about "a place where nothing ever happens" which Byrne delivers with the right amount of grace while bassist Tina Weymouth delivers some solid accompaniment.
I see a lot of times where the notes being played or hit don't correspond with what's on screen. The film was shot over a period of days, and then edited together, but judging from the perfect quality of the performed pieces, I sense some post-game "sweetening" went on. But it's a nice piece to watch, very sublime, and the new DVD treatment is a decided gem worth having. You'll wish you were back in the 1980s when the Heads were the newest thing, though they never really got old. At least they will always be fresh and alive and together on "Stop Making Sense."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Take this not as music that became a concert that became a film. Take it instead as what it is, a film.
As a film, it is completely without narrative, except by schematic reference to the viewers' real world. It has no trick narrative stance: the viewers are in the audience. It has no flashy angles or editing. This is both minimalist filmmaking and minimalist rock all based on the notion of urban ecstasy.
As with all great films, this one comes as a strange, focused vision from a single imagination. In this case, Byrnes had been studying religious ecstasy for a decade, and developed a geek shamanism of angst. Cast as Sufic poetry. (See how dead everything gets when the Tom Tom Club does its single number?) Its not the music, but the performance. Its not the performance but that shrill locus of spasm in your spine, its not your spine, oh -- I'll tell you later.
As a film, just a film, I think this rates as one of the most successful experimental films ever.
All concert films should be as innovative, energetic and just plain fun as Stop Making Sense. With Jonathan Demme as director, the concert has a weird and wonderful theatrical look, with David Byrne arriving onstage at the beginning, armed with an acoustic guitar. Gradually, the other members of the band join him and the stage sets become highly unusual. For visuals, nothing matches the odd behavior of Byrne and quirky but (for the most part) great songs of the Talking Heads better than Demme's approach to filming. The movie has such a terrific build up (at one point Byrne actually runs around the stage repeatedly) that you cannot help but move with it. I can't believe concert films that followed did not even attempt to match this film's innovativeness. A great movie, even if you've never heard of the Talking Heads.
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