Stop Making Sense: Film Review
Cast: Talking Heads
Director: Jonathan Demme
That Stop Making Sense manages to seem so electrifying some 32 years after release is a testament to director Jonathan Demme's capture of the concert, as well as the band involved.
Filmed over 3 nights at the Pantages Theatre, Demme manages to encapsulate the energy and kooky nature of lithe and wiry lead singer David Byrne and his aesthetic for on stage.
The film begins with Byrne's solo performance, armed with only a guitar and a boombox, as he launches into a riveting version of Psycho Killer. Gradually, portions of the stage are wheeled out and one by one, members of the band join him. It's not until a truly evocative performance of Burning Down The House some 30 minutes in that the entire band's on stage. But that's not to say the film doesn't kick off until then.
Demme's deliberate camera-work and refusal to cut to the audience (aside from the final song to show how much people are actually grooving away) serves as an immersive touch to bring you close and personal concert experience. Coupled with the Auckland's Civic Theatre sound system, there was not one doubt that those watching were not in the original audience.
Cleverly, Demme captures each nuance of the stage show - from the wheeling out of various props to the unveiling of various band members, he holds your sway, knowing instinctively where you as an audience member would be focussed with your attentions and letting the camera be your guide.
It helps that Byrne has an infectious energy as he jogs on stage, plays with a lamp or is bedecked out in a giant oversize suit. The energy from both his performance and the band itself, as well as the back catalogue of hits is contagious, and yet never once loses the intimacy of a stage show.
However, as the concert draws inevitably to a close, there's no disputing the true stars of the film are both Byrne and Demme. Byrne for his conceiving of the stage show and its execution and Demme for showing the inner cogs of how a show comes together - that it never purposefully feels like it's been culled from 3 days of shooting over 3 concerts is a credit to the editing, which not once loses the vibe and punkish energy of Talking Heads at their absolute peak.
Stop Making Sense is a performance in the truest sense of the word; it's for both fans and non- fans. That a camera has captured the magic and managed to lose none of its urgency is merely a testament to the skill of all involved.