Stop Making Sense (1984)

I’ve never really understood the appeal of concert films. The draw of live music is in its transitory nature, the sense of seeing something once that will only be like this with these people now and never again. Good or bad, a concert is about living in the moment; not about something that can be paused and rewound and rewatched.

I’ll happily make an exception for Stop Making Sense, an extraordinary concert film brimming over with exuberant joy. Helmed by the Talking Heads and photographed by then-up-and-coming director Jonathan Demme, Stop Making Sense builds from a sparse stage, a portable cassette player and David Byrne’s lonely rendition of “Psycho Killer” into a triumphant, celebratory kaleidoscope of music and backup dancers and ridiculously oversized menswear.

Demme – or Byrne, maybe – makes the ingenious choice to only show the audience at the beginning and end of the concert. This simple decision draws you into the show, focusing on the uplifting performances and irrepressible sense of creativity. Good concerts get you up and dancing even if you paid for nice seats; great concerts get you dancing in your living room at 4pm on a Thursday. This is a great concert – and a great film.

4.5 stars

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