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STOP MAKING SENSE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Feb. 28, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: During the early 1980s I heard a couple of songs on the radio by Talking Heads but I was not actually a fan of the group when I reviewed this concert film some 35 years ago. That changed, however, after the movie. And these days it’s considered one of the best concert films of all time, and rightly so. Now it’s the beneficiary of a new Blu-ray upgrade from music-distribution company Palm Pictures. My review was published in the Deseret News on Jan. 29, 1985.

This ain’t no party

This ain’t no disco

This ain’t no foolin’ around

If you know those lyrics, you know the Talking Heads, a bizarre, energetic group that might be best described as jogging new wave.

If you don’t know them, go meet them.

No suffocating close-ups, no boring shots of the audience in throes of ecstasy or agony, no cinéma vérité camera-shaking to make you nervous, and no interviews — “Stop Making Sense” is an excellent example of the best way to film a rock concert, focusing on the action, the various members of the band and the performance.

     

David Byrne, center, jogs to the music of 'Stop Making Sense' (1985).

“Stop Making Sense” is one of the best concert films you’ll ever see, with director Jonathan Demme (“Melvin and Howard”) taking full advantage of cinematic technique to enhance a live performance loaded with jubilant music that is guaranteed to make you tap your toes, and maybe even get up and dance.

Lead singer David Byrne is a frail-looking, 96-pound weakling-type, who comes out on stage wearing a white suit and shirt, buttoned at the collar with no tie, looking like a cross between Mr. Rogers and Norman Bates.

He’s initially alone on a bare stage with his guitar but as the songs progress he is joined by various members of the group, building the set, if you will. And the songs build the same way, almost every single one, to a sense of joyous frenzy.

Some, like “Burnin’ Down the House,” make it virtually impossible to sit still, and at Thursday night’s preview screening, the audience was so excited many youngsters ran down to the front of the theater and danced with the music, blending in with the dark shadows of audience members at the concert whose silhouette images occasionally show up on the screen.

     

In his oversized suit, David Byrne sings in 'Stop Making Sense' (1985).

There’s a sense of zaniness to it all, particularly when Byrne comes out on stage in an oversized suit that makes his head look like he’s been to the witch doctor one too many times.

Then there is the jogging, dancing and just general rhythmic movement of it all, as the various band members occasionally take the spotlight, singing, playing and making the concert consistently rousing, energetic and exhilarating.

The film is gleaned from four live performances that Demme recorded and it is beautifully photographed and edited so that the rhythm of the movie matches that of the live performance.

If you aren’t a Talking Heads fan you soon will be. Just go to this movie and try to keep from being swept away.

“Stop Making Sense” is unrated, but would doubtless get a G.