I finally saw that it didn’t make sense for the first time, and it drastically changed my opinion on concert films
To me, the concepts of classics and concert films always sit in the same boat. In other words, one could openly question why a film was a classic and why concert films should even exist. Even as a Talking Heads fan who had never seen Stop making sense, I still wasn’t sure whether I would convert to the latter concept after attending this historic concert.
I was incredibly wrong to doubt the power of director Jonathan Demme’s 1984 film, and I’m now here to explain how much my opinion has changed. Re-released just in time to make it into the 2023 film release schedule, it’s been almost 40 years since David Byrne and company shook the world with Stop making sense. And yet, it doesn’t seem like a day has passed since this upcoming A24 movie hit the scene.
My thoughts on concert films before they stopped making sense
In all honesty, the concept of a “concert film” made me wince a little. Maybe I was just too accustomed to televised events that alternated between static camera angles, but watching a concert filmed on the big screen didn’t seem appealing to me. As much as I loved and grew up with the music of Talking Heads, I wondered how much fun I would have at my press screening.
Concerts, by their nature, are things that you really have to feel. Just ask any fan who attended a Taylor Swift Eras Tour concert, which literally moved the Earth in some venues. There is an energy that cannot be simulated and is difficult to reproduce with film. Stop making sense, led by the late Jonathan Demme, did all that and more; and it still holds up after almost 40 years for several reasons.
The Talking Heads image is beautifully remastered
Stop making sense is the film that has been referred to as the “greatest concert film of all time”. So if this movie didn’t have a high enough bar for me to like it, the stakes were so high. Well, consider me a believer, and the first reason for that belief is the fact that A24 did a very passionate 4K restoration on this electric experience.
Filmed over several nights in Los Angeles during the band’s tour to promote the album Speaking in tongues, the founding pop culture phenomenon of the Talking Heads is as clear as day. What’s better is that the film was released in a limited IMAX release ahead of its wider theatrical release starting this weekend.
One of the best comments I heard at my screening was that David Byrne wearing the big suit in IMAX looked like the incredibly practical Trinity test in Oppenheimer. It’s hard for me to argue against this point, especially when band member Jerry Harrison’s work to keep the sound nice and tight can in no way be oversold. Which brings us to another key element as to why Stop making sense still works.
Stop Making Sense is not just a filmed concert, it’s much more
Thank the music gods for this live music jamboree not the static camera angle experience that I have come to associate with concert films. Come to think of it, he, Stop making sense is not, in my eyes, a simple “concert film”; it’s so much more. This is because of what it presents besides a well-edited and well-timed depiction of a live performance.
Stop making sense is an equation that blends the concept of a time capsule, a stage show, and a film into one breathtaking whole. What begins with Davd Byrne playing a simple version of “Psycho Killer” slowly expands to include the rest of the main Talking Heads line-up of Tina Weymouth, Chris Franz and Jerry Harrison. Then it continues to expand to include the expanded concert lineup of Lynn Mabry and Ednah Holt, as well as Alex Weir, Bernie Worrell and Steve Scales in the mix.
Once everyone is in play, Stop making sense moves into high gear to become an exciting artistic movement. Good luck trying to stand still or not sing the songs while they are being performed, as that is a difficult thing to achieve. Social media only confirmed it, as people shared clips and stories about dance parties breaking out at screenings everywhere.
Jonathan Demme wasn’t just a director, he was a fan
The other major pillar which makes Stop making sense something that you Really What you need to see for yourself is the creative team of director Jonathan Demme and cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth. Allow me to put it this way: the director of Thesilenceofthelambs and the man who shot Blade Runner teamed up to make this film what it is in a visual sense. Which only confirms that Demme wasn’t just a director for hire, he was a fan.
During the Q&A session at TIFF that took place after my press screening, it was recalled that Demme had met with the group and was eager to make Stop making sense with them. This led to the director following the band on tour to study the staging of the show, as well as a fruitful editing room partnership with the Talking Heads themselves.
Between the group’s input and the instincts of Demme and editor Lisa Day, the love couldn’t have been stronger. What was presented on stage those nights clicked for everyone involved, and it shows from the first frame.
Nearly 40 years later, this Talking Heads classic still draws people to the movies
The IMAX Live event I attended for my press screening was not only for members of the press, it was also a ticketed public event. Tickets being higher than usual for this presentation of Stop making sensethis kind of crowd was already impressive.
With a week of standard IMAX public screenings and this TIFF screening added to the total, the film grossed $1.4 million, according to estimates from Deadline. The real problem here is that the audience demographics presented in this article showed this surprising pattern:
I admit that part of this appeal probably comes from the iconic David Byrne “big suit” memes that have been prevalent throughout the culture. Before gifs became another language, shows like Nickelodeon Doug paid homage, and this only continued into the modern era with Documentary now spoof an entire episode Stop making sense. There is definitely a cultural imprint that needs to be talked about in this film.
But with David Byrne’s solo career continuing to impress and his Broadway concert film American utopia On HBO not too long ago, there was probably already a healthy built-in audience for this film. You don’t have to be a die-hard Talking Heads fan to know the song. Stop making senseor to recall Byrne doing an impressive dance in his gigantic ensemble.
A restored re-release of a film isn’t something new or novel, but when it elicits the reaction of this picture, it’s something that should be taken seriously. In the Deadline report it is mentioned how Stop making sense will still be in some theaters as a weekend repertoire title. With a whole bunch of friends and family who haven’t seen this beauty for themselves, I think I’ll be seeing this movie at least a few more times in the theater.
What I know for sure is that Stop making sense convinced me that, in the right hands, concert films can be as rocking as the real thing. I’m emboldened to discover even more entries in the genre, and yes, I think I’ll even try this Taylor Swift Eras Tour movie for added size. The pleasure of watching Talking Heads on the big screen was a real buzz for me.
If you want to have fun yourself, Stop making sense is now showing in theaters. While I think you should definitely go see this one in the theater in every format possible, if you can find an IMAX screening, that’s the real way to fly with this one. Don’t wait, because even if this kind of experience doesn’t happen once in a lifetime, it won’t last forever.