#101 - Stop Making Sense (Jonathan Demme)

Burning Down The House

The connection between music and cinema is a natural one, and many films would not be what they are without the music that accompanies them. However when it comes to concert movies it is usually the music that carries the film more than anything else, but that is not the case with “Stop Making Sense”. And I am not trying to downplay the quality of the music of the Talking Heads because in my opinion they are one of the best bands of the 80’s, however I am trying to say that concert movies in general are usually not very cinematic. But not “Stop Making Sense” as I find it a sublime marriage between music and cinema.

Concert movies tend to give you the concert experience first and foremost from the perspective of the audience and that is a laudable endeavor to pursue, but that is not “Stop Making Sense”. What this magnificent film does is to try and give you the on stage experience as it attempts to share the immediate energy of the performers with the viewer. And this makes it an inherently better concert movie than most because a second hand audience experience is exactly that, second hand, and nothing can replace the real thing which is to go to the damn show and see it live.

So instead the audience experience is of little concern to this film and most of the concert is filmed and presented from the stage itself and most of the experience feels to be orchestrated for this presentation. Early on we see the stage being built while the songs play, then there are many different presentational sets that the band goes through that feel like they are set up more for the camera than the audience viewers. But this is only how it feels like and it is mostly because the sublime editing of the film and the wonderful camera-work.

And dear God is it all staged well, it’s like clockwork and the lighting is visually engaging and perfectly fits the songs. It is fair to note that the cinematographer of the film is Jordan Cronenweth, he of “Blade Runner”, and the lighting is oftentimes quite evocative of that seminal Sci-Fi film with its impressionistic qualities. But the main brain behind the stage designs seems to be the genius behind the band on stage, David Byrne. And it makes sense as it is the perfect visual interpretation of his music and his goofy stage antics. He is a fascinating presence on the stage with his dances and vocal acrobatics - he’s just utterly fascinating to watch.

Then there’s the music itself, and for a Talking Heads fan like myself this is heaven as I just can’t help myself but to sing along to this film, and this is who the film is the easiest to recommend to - the Talking Heads fans. The director of the film, the great Jonathan Demme, seems to be also one of those fans as there’s no way that he’d be able to encapsulate the core of what the band and their music is about otherwise. And the final product of his and the band’s labors is rightfully considered one of the best concert films of all time, if not THE best. 


David Byrne
Tina Weymouth
Chris Franz
Jerry Harrison
Bernie Worrell
Steven Scales
Alex Weir

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