Stop Making Sense

Reissued for its 15th anniversary, Jonathan Demme and Talking Heads' exhilarating Stop Making Sense is unlike any film made before or since (Demme's Storefront Hitchcock excepted), a concert movie that eschews backstage interviews and audience cutaways for the simpler pleasures of watching a band perform at the top of its game. Pop artists both, Demme and Heads frontman David Byrne collaborated on an evolving-stage concept that fuses clever, minimalist performance art with the accumulating narrative force of great cinema. Filmed over three nights at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, Stop Making Sense opens with a white-suited Byrne, acoustic guitar and cassette player in hand, strolling onto a bare stage appointed only with tape marks and scaffolding. Piping in a simple, synthesized percussion track, he performs "Psycho Killer" with the flailing limbs of a marionette, as if each joint were attached to a separate string. With each song, he's joined by other Talking Heads members, backup singers, and additional musicians (nine in all) while pieces of an increasingly elaborate, visually arresting backdrop are rolled out in kind. By the time the group gets to rousing extended versions of "Girlfriend Is Better" and "Once In A Lifetime," the sonics, choreography, and design concept have grown almost imperceptibly to a joyous aerobic workout with a suggestive slide show right out of The Parallax View. Demme and Blade Runner cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth keep the cameras trained on the stage and capture the performance with such unobtrusive clarity that their skills are rendered invisible. It's a tribute to Demme's generosity that Stop Making Sense is given over completely to Talking Heads, the members of which sound every bit as vital today as they did 15 years ago.

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