Stop Making Sense
The patently mainstream 1982 comedy Swing Shift slightly stymied Jonathan Demme’s idiosyncratic, cool vibe teased by 1980’s Melvin and Howard, but this 1984 Talking Head concert flick rekindled both his directorial cachet and the concert documentary in the MTV age. Shot over three nights at Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre in December 1983, Sense captures the Talking Heads molting from affecting oddity into an underground musical force. Demme focuses Sense entirely on the live show, his choreographed camera crew—led by Blade Runner DP Jordan Cronenweth—capturing the slow momentum building of a Heads’ show with no backstage preamble or audience reaction shots. David Byrne opens the set with a jittery, staggering, boom-box assisted solo treatment of “Psycho Killer” until band mates Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, and Tina Weymouth, join him, and come “Slippery People” the band is augmented by a chorus of backing vocalists and extra musicians that sculpts the band’s wallop of jerky, funky anti-pop. Certain numbers stand out—the slideshow theatrics of “Making Flippy Floppy” and Byrne’s now infamously big suit during “Girlfriend is Better”—but Stop Making Sense stands up still on the breathlessly energy of a band completely on top of its game.