Stop Making Sense (1984)

Gravity (97)

There are just some films that shock you with how good they are. I will go on record now stating that Stop Making Sense is an undeniable masterpiece. It is something quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen and it is probably one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen. But why is that? At the surface, it doesn’t make any sense (sorry about that), but when you delve deeper into it; you can see why this film is so special and unique.

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David Byrne, David Byrne, David Byrne – the man has the stage presence of Mick Jagger, the musical talents of Eric Clapton and the personality of Charlie Chaplin. He makes one of the most charismatic and brilliantly weird leading men in any film. He is probably the one to blame for this film, as pretty much the entire reason this was so mind-blowing was Byrne’s innovations for the concert – it is not a typical concert film. He understands that a concert film is so much more than a band performing their songs for an audience – it can be a transcendent, poignant event that can be even more cinematic than any film. From the opening song of Byrne walking onto a barren, empty stage with just his acoustic guitar and a boom box, performing the iconic Psycho Killer to the final song, where the entire band is taking part in a joyful rendition of Cross-eyed and Painless, and everything in between – this is an amazing concert and an even more amazing film, mostly due to the talent of Jonathan Demme (who would go on to become a legendary director himself), who managed to capture the brilliance of this band to absolute perfection. Every one of Byrne’s emotions, facial expressions and cadences were captured and presented to us.

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The Talking Heads managed to help revolutionize music – they aren’t as beloved by the mainstream as they should be, but they are of course music icons. There music is wonderful and quirky, which was shown in the staging of the concert – each song brought forward one member of the band at a time, allowing us to realize the full influence of each member of the band. Incidentally, we realize that while Byrne is the star of this film and of the band, each of the musicians form part of a real gaggle of characters. This is not simply half a dozen musicians centered around a great lead singer, but a idiosyncratic group of weird, wonderful and quirky performers, each forming their own personality through the concert, which is admirable, considering how very instances there are of the lesser band members being able to be on the same level of the frontman, because let’s be honest – no one went to see Queen for Brian May, as talented as he is.

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I can’t describe how amazing this film is – unlike any other film, this is a concert film, so there isn’t much I can really talk about, but instead it is an experience that is incredibly entertaining and insanely well made. We get a portrait presented to us of a brilliantly talented group of performers and their odd leading man. I could say Stop Making Sense is the Citizen Kane of concert movies, but that’s wrong – Citizen Kane is the Stop Making Sense of fictional films.

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