Stop Making Sense

Stop Making Sense ★★★★★

One of my favorite moviegoing memories is seeing Stop Making Sense at my alma mater’s film series my undergrad freshman year. As soon as “Burning Down the House” started, everyone in the theater got up and danced through the rest of the concert. We were all together, dancing through different faces both familiar and unknown, directly underneath the screen, with giant, distorted images of the Talking Heads above us and their songs blaring through our bodies. Their music has a real power to transmit its energy to viewers in any time and place, with the same strength it had when performed live in 1984.

In addition to the quality of the music, I think that’s in large part because of the collaboration between a band with many collaborative members, the Talking Heads, and one of the most empathic directors, Jonathan Demme: everyone involved just wants to share the stage and screen, to highlight each other’s energy. That spirit of sharing and togetherness, and the technical presentation from behind the camera, invites the viewer into the space onscreen, to share the spirit of the concert with those present: the performers, the audience, the stagehands, and even the camera crew. That construction of contiguity and continuity makes viewers feel present, with others. To feel invited into a space together for a uniting, wholesome experience is a delightful, even restorative, salve during social distancing. I once again got up and danced along, though that’s partially because I feel deeply seen by David Byrne making the most of his natural lankiness.

When I first saw Stop Making Sense my freshman year, I was dancing right under the screen for the majority of the runtime, so this is my first time properly watching the whole picture. It occurred to me that every song is like its own scene: performed, staged, shot, lit, and particularly edited in its own distinct way. That allows for a real range of experience and dynamism across the show. Every song and performance beat is perfectly compelling and engaging.

It’s some of the best of what music and film have to offer. Plus, it has what may just be the greatest onscreen romance: David Byrne and a lamp. You can’t tell me that’s not love in his eyes.

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