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I’ve found that whenever a well-known film director shoots
a movie about a musician or musicians, the level of
professionalism shows, paying big artistic dividends for the
viewer. Cases in point would be films such as “The Last Waltz”
and “Shine a Light,” by Martin Scorsese. Jonathan Demme’s
contributions to this category include “Heart of Gold,” and
“Stop Making Sense.”

“Stop Making Sense” is a film of a concert performance by
The Talking Heads, shot in December 1983 at the Pantages
Theatre in Los Angeles, and released the next year on the
Palm Pictures label. As many people are aware, The Talking
Heads was a hugely popular and influential band during the
1980’s. Their music incorporated elements of Punk, Art Rock,
Avant-garde, Pop, Psychedelic Funk, and World Music, as well
as other genres. Much of this occurred under the watchful eye
of Brian Eno, formerly of Roxy Music, who rapidly became a major
producer in his own right. Eno began working with The Talking
Heads on their second album.

The Talking Heads was originally formed in 1975 by Art students,
David Byrne and Chris Frantz. Soon, they were joined by Tina
Weymouth on bass, and initially performed as a trio. In 1977,
Jerry Harrison joined the group, playing guitar, keyboards and
singing vocals. This became their core lineup, and between 1977
and 1988, The Talking Heads would release eight albums, before
dissolving during 1991.

This movie was filmed over a three-day period, while the group
was at its peak of popularity. It has the aforementioned
professional look which is often lacking in the concert DVDs that
I’ve seen. Consisting of 16 songs, the set builds from David
Byrne’s first solo entrance and gradually adds more band
members, until the full array of musicians, back-up singers
and players are on stage for their hit, “Burning Down
the House.”

This film captures a highly energetic 86-minute set, although
the actual concert sets were longer. In other words, Jonathan
Demme and company edited the concert footage, thereby
creating a brilliant concert movie. Throughout the film, The
Talking Heads leader and main songwriter, David Byrne, is
constantly moving and running around the stage, literally
performing an aerobic workout during the film, while the
other musicians uniquely move and groove.

By the time this film was shot, The Talking Heads often
used a number of back-up musicians. This concert film was
no exception, and included Bernie Worrell on keyboards,
Steve Scales on percussion, Alex Weir on guitar, and backup
singers Lynn Mabry and Edna Holt. For much of this film,
Byrne wore his signature “big man” suit.

Of course, many of the band’s biggest hits, including “Take
Me to the River” and ”Once in a Lifetime” were performed,
and the whole film reflected a sense of theatricality that
can only come from careful planning and editing. The sound
quality is among the best that I’ve ever heard, and DVD
viewers can choose between three audio mix options.

Bonus features include a full-length commentary by the band
members and Demme, as well as written bios, a trailer, a
promotional clip, and a funny “Byrne interviews Byrne” segment.
It is my habit to always watch and listen to bonus commentaries,
and the informative, full-length one accompanying this film
helps me appreciate “the process.” Three bonus songs from
another performance were also added to these extras. Film
critic Leonard Maltin called this film “One of the greatest rock
movies ever made.” Based on my viewing, I can’t argue with
him, even though The Talking Heads music isn’t my favorite
type of Rock. They were just so well served by this movie.