In Stop Making Sense, the Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs)-directed concert film for Talking Heads, the iconic ’80s new wave quartet, lead singer David Byrne grabs your attention and hypnotizes you in non-stop action, presenting a series of characters and personas that differ from song to song, culminating in the unmistakable image of Byrne, suited in a comically oversized suit, wiggling his arms and legs, in almost dizzying fashion.
To say that Stop Making Sense is the greatest concert film ever made is underselling it as part of a genre of movie that generally doesn’t get done that well. However, it is surely the most applicable superlative for a film that is highly deserving of superlative, an indelible experience that is infinitely rewatchable. I’ve seen Stop Making Sense at least 10 times – it’s the perfect film for watching on its own, but also an amazing film to have on in the background.
After all, music like this is just downright fun to listen to. It’s clear that Demme caught the band at a creative peak, collaborating with interesting and exciting musicians, trying boundary-pushing experiments in pop music.
But of course, Stop Making Sense is more than just great music. Thanks to the assistance of what we can presume to be a large amount of cocaine, this is an intensely choreographed, incredibly performative experience; David Byrne and co. are here to put on a show, and they take that job seriously.
Stop Making Sense feels every bit like a piece of choreographed work and yet has a vitality and spontaneity that reminds us that this is all happening live; these are simply creative geniuses having a lot of fun with each-other, making magic happen. Stop Making Sense is a simply joyous experience.
Demme’s camera probes around the stage, coming in for close-ups at just the right moments. It’s here, then there, then David Byrne is mugging directly into the camera, and then we’ve moved back onto the keyboardist, or the drummer.
If Stop Making Sense has a dry moment, it’s the brief interlude in which David Byrne goes off-screen to give his bandmates the spotlight with a Tom Tom Club feature. It’s not bad music, mind you, but David Byrne is the electric star of the show without a doubt, magnetic and attention-getting.
Of course, then Byrne breaks out the aforementioned comically oversized suit and any attention lost is instantly regained. It’s an unforgettable image.