Stop Making Sense (1984)

Genres - Music  |   Sub-Genres - Concerts, Rock Musical  |   Run Time - 99 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Stop Making Sense is a prime example of the best way to make a perfect concert movie. First, choose as a subject a band that is as attentive to visual matters as it is to its music -- and preferably one that comes with sterling critical credentials as well. Second, choose as director someone with an unerring sense of composition and an ability to zero in on the key moments in a song, those that will make the most lasting impression or will deliver a message -- subtly or obviously -- to the audience. Third, plan the shoot to as close to within an inch of its life as possible (difficult to do given the vagaries of live performance). Fourth, be in the right place at the right time. Although an individual's reaction to Sense will in large part be colored by his feelings about the Talking Heads, even those who are not fans should be impressed by Jonathan Demme's letter-perfect direction. He employs both handheld backstage and machine-mounted front-of-house cameras, and the contrast between the two is striking. This captures not only the "concept" of the film -- that it is as much about how a show is put on as it is about the show itself -- but also mirrors the dichotomy of the band itself, with the front cameras pinpointing their cold, formalistic quality and the backstage ones pointing up their surprising warmth and vibrancy. Most exciting is how engaging David Byrne comes across; his self-conscious quirks and pre-conceived persona register as natural and appealing, and the amount of energy he puts into the concert is galvanizing. Although he dominates the stage, honey-haired Tina Weymouth still manages to quietly score points on her own. Sense is an excellent film that stands many repeated viewings.