Stop Making Sense Review

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The Silence Of The Lambs director captures Talking Heads in concert…


Boasting a sublime collaboration that few rockumentaries can muster, Stop Making Sense practically sparks with the synergy between filmmaker and subject.

      Shot shortly after the release of their Speaking In Tongues LP, this 1984 concert movie catches Talking Heads at the peak of their powers with all the restraint and guile of a master filmmaker. From lead singer David Byrne’s solo and gloriously edgy rendition of Psycho Killer to the fully expanded nine-piece’s barnstorming rendition of Al Green’s Take Me To The River, this is a textbook example of how to put on a great gig on celluloid.

      Half of SMS’s genius is to throw out the clichéd rock movie rule book: out goes the MTV editing, backstage dramas, grainy black and white tour bus footage and cutaway shots to a rapturous audience. In their place are long takes and rhythmic, beautifully organised editing that invites involvement with the music, reveals the dynamics of a band who are really clicking together and showcases TH’s nutty, imaginative staging to blinding effect. The gradual building up of the band as they enter one by one: Byrne’s impromptu laps of the stage in Life During Wartime, the haunting low-lighting of What A Day That Was – all have ample time to work their magic.

      The other ace up the film’s sleeve is, of course, the band itself. For all their off kilter, arty reputation, Talking Heads really know how to cut it up live, mixing quirky funk licks (Burning Down The House, Girlfriend Is Better and the seminal Once In A Lifetime) with aching, affecting “ballads” (Heaven, Naïve Melody) all shot through with consummate musicianship, tons of energy and Byrne’s warped worldview. Indeed, be it his rubbery dancing or his amazing outsized suit antics, Byrne emerges as a spellbinding frontman. This plus his bands’ infectious enthusiasm and Demme’s sleight of hand make this just about the best concert film ever made.

Truly captivating entertainment.