Stop Making Sense Screen 15 articles

Stop Making Sense


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  • The film is devoid of the usual rockumentary bull—no "candid" backstage interviews with stammering musicians, no cutaways to blissed-out fans bouncing in the aisles. Instead, it's 88 minutes of solid, inventive music, filmed in a straightforward manner that neither deifies the performers nor encourages an illusory intimacy, but presents the musicians simply as people doing their job and enjoying it. The enlightened humanism of the director of Melvin and Howard is evident in every frame.

  • What makes "Sense" a prime cut of concert film is that Demme gets out of the way of the proceedings, allowing what the cameras see to speak for itself. The show, which was designed by Byrne, is an incredibly intergraded pastiche of experimentation, art-school hi-jinks and incomparable entertainment.

  • The performers find their way onto the stage in layers, song by song, each one filling in his or her particular space so perfectly that you wonder why you hadn’t thought of it as empty. “Stop Making Sense” is so beautifully choreographed that in some ways it’s more like theater than a rock show. There’s no rock ‘n’ roll sloppiness, no seat-of-the-pants spontaneity. Instead, it’s all about stealth inventiveness.

  • 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.

  • Demme redefines how we look at musical performance... Through the healing power of music, Demme and his subjects break down detrimental dichotomies (between audience/artist, black/white, etc.) and, as such, Stop Making Sense possesses a driving momentum and a clear purpose – the film’s creative mechanics make “sense” in order to portray the implied nonsense of the title.

  • Once Byrne is done with his solo feature, the other members of the band join him one by one over the course of several songs. It's not only the equivalent of "rising action" in story terms but also a heart- (and foot-)warming metaphor for the creation of a family. That the group is multigendered as well as multiethnic (with special guest artists including guitarist Alex Weir and funkier-than-thou Bernie Worrell) gives the "story" much more resonance than a lot of fictional attempts.

  • In nearly every shot, STOP MAKING SENSE makes the case that Demme may be the greatest director of musical performance in American cinema. It isn't difficult to convey the joy of making music, but Demme's attention to the interplay between musicians (and, in some inspired moments, between the musicians and their crew) conveys the imagination, hard work, and camaraderie behind any good song.

  • Stop Making Sense, like other Demme films such as Melvin and Howard or Something Wild or Neil Young: Heart of Gold, can make you feel giddy in a way that you associate with movies you watched as a child. You feel the pleasure of people who know better engaging in a delirious foolishness, and you surrender, which is exactly, of course, what the title was telling you before you walked into the theater or pushed play.

  • The film exists as its own extraordinary achievement, in thrall to nothing but its own rhythms and the charisma of its electrifying star. Stop Making Sense is a vivid testament to Byrne’s exuberant physical and vocal stylings, but it’s just as much a showcase for Demme’s skill at cinematically capturing the essence of the performer’s talents.

  • Because Talking Heads were a super-cerebral band with a seemingly borderline-autistic frontman, the show's sense of community and its nonstop joie de vivre now seem "unexpected" (given that I've seen the movie like 15 or 20 times) and uniquely thrilling... Also, of course, it's the greatest concert movie ever made—perhaps the only one that qualifies as a carefully constructed work of art rather than merely a filmed documentation of an event (à la Woodstock, Monterey Pop, The Last Waltz, etc.).

  • For all its formal inventiveness and the quality of its subject, the band Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense may be the best concert film of all time because it actually tells a story... Taken on its own, the music and the band’s athleticism are enough to make this a concert film for the ages, but it’s the synergy between director Jonathan Demme and Byrne that seals this as a masterpiece.

  • Shot over the span of a three-day residency at LA’s Pantages Theater, the film opts for total immersion, switching between wide shots of the stage and lengthy, mesmerizing close-ups of the band. The editing produces a gleeful, childlike energy, punctuated at the end by the appearance of Byrne wearing an enormous grey business suit and looking like a wide-eyed kid playing grown-up.

  • Everything novel becomes old given enough time, but it’s a testament to the iconoclasm and shock-of-the-new impact of Demme’s brilliant Talking Heads concert doc, “Stop Making Sense” that after three decades it hasn’t dated, but rather become a landmark in the redefinition of an often undervalued genre.

  • How did Stop Making Sense (1984) become one of the greatest rock docs ever? Because Demme, generous soul that he was, saw no need to assert his own sensibility over the material, opting to stay true to the vision of David Byrne and the Talking Heads... I can't help but sense Demme's presence behind the film's overwhelming energy and dazzling technique.

  • Jonathan Demme’s blissful 1984 concert film is itself a navigation of competing impulses, artistic identities, and visual expressions. Beginning with an acoustic rendition of "Psycho Killer," the brazenly expressive and joyous documentary evolves several times, adding and layering musicians, instruments, backdrops to fully realize what becomes an untethering of limitation and expectation.

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