Stop Making Sense (1984)
November 15, 2022 2:25 PM - Subscribe

A concert film for the rock group Talking Heads, filmed while on tour in 1983 to promote Speaking in Tongues.
posted by johnofjack (12 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
God this is so good.
posted by Carillon at 2:30 PM on November 15, 2022 [3 favorites]

best concert film ever
posted by j_curiouser at 3:16 PM on November 15, 2022 [5 favorites]

If you love this, check out Live in Rome, which is from 1980 but very similar, sonically
posted by The River Ivel at 3:51 PM on November 15, 2022 [4 favorites]

If you haven't seen either, I'd start with Live in Rome since it was earlier in their career and it's less polished.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:04 PM on November 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

This is genuinely one of my favorite films, and definitely my favorite concert film.

Live in Rome is also quite good, yes. I wonder what sort of work they would have put out if Adrian Belew had stuck around a bit longer.
posted by johnofjack at 4:16 PM on November 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

best concert film ever

Yep. Pretty much. I could watch this over and over.

I'd start with Live in Rome since it was earlier in their career and it's less polished.

When you do, please remember it’s Italy, it’s the 80s, and the cameramen seem to have a pronounced interest in Tina. Who, unrelated to that, plays the whole show barefoot, which is so cool.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:19 PM on November 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

This movie delighted me, to the point that, when I first saw it, I very nearly got up and danced in the aisle of the theater, despite the fact that I can't and don't dance. It's easy (and the grist of some pretty uninspired comedy routines--yes, I'm looking at you, Rich Hall) to make fun of the more outré aspects of Byrne's performance--the big suit, the gestures during "Once in a Lifetime", etc.--but in the context of this film, they come across as conduits for the joy and playfulness of Byrne and the band.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:08 PM on November 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Sixteen songs shot in sixteen styles. I mean, I think The Last Waltz is a pretty good concert film too, but Scorsese was much less ambitious in his framing.

I like that Byrne, ever the formalist, recapitulates the group’s history onstage. It begins with just him and an acoustic guitar (and a boom box, of course), then Weymouth joins for the second song, Frantz for the third, and Harrison for the fourth. I recall reading he agonized over having one of the backup singers — can’t recall if it was Mabry or Holt — contribute some offstage vocals during “Heaven.”

I may have recounted once before that back in the eighties, before home video was as big a thing as it later became, I used to manage an art house cinema. I had only seen Stop Making Sense once, a couple of years earlier, and I pestered the owner to book it in (mainly so I could see it again)He at last relented and squeezed it in on a Thursday early show or something.

The other occupants of my dying steel town were clearly not as enthusiastic as I was about a new wave concert film, and the box office take was like 30% of what as expected.

And that is the history of my era of booking programming for the cinema.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:17 PM on November 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Back in the late 80s and early 90s it was an annual (or maybe nearly annual) event for the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor to book this film. The Michigan was a large historic theater with space and presence - nothing like the multiplex showing rooms one gets today. We'd go and dance in the aisles and eventually exit from the theater with an emotional buzz that had nothing whatever to do with chemical substances. [Which was probably not true of the performers - I was oblivious to it at the time but they are all looking pretty glazed at one point or another in the film, especially Bernie Worrell.]

Anyway, I'm hard pressed to think of another movie experience that ever came close to those yearly fall showings. Even removed from that very particular context, I still love watching it.

It's a surprisingly physical movie, too. Once the band are fully assembled on stage, they're pretty much in non-stop motion until things slow down with Naive Melody (This Must Be the Place). I know that it is stitched together from several performances but I'm still often flabbergasted by how much energy they are putting into their performances, perhaps most especially backup singer/dancers Edna Holt and Lynn Mabry, who more or less jog, run, or dance at 100% for the whole film. In my current state of age-driven decrepitude I can't even come close to keeping up, but on very rare occasions, when winter storms are blowing in off the Gulf of Alaska and I can't bear to get my daily quota of outside exercise, I will still, sometimes, put on this film and dance.
posted by Nerd of the North at 10:54 PM on November 15, 2022 [5 favorites]

I loved this movie when it came out, and it was the first DVD I ever bought.
Fascinated by how they progressively build the stage as the show went on, used lighting changes on each song, and no color (except for the Tom Tom Club.)

My favorite is "Heaven." On the commentary track, David explained he wanted to show back-up singer Lynn Mabry backstage, but that would have broken the narrative.

This same commentary track was where I learned that "Heaven" wasn't about a metaphysical place, but a bar run by Richard Branson. I still love the song though.
posted by Marky at 2:21 AM on November 16, 2022

One of my longtime “put on and dance around while doing cooking” faves. Bernie Worrell is phenomenal, as is the rest of the touring band.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 3:36 PM on November 16, 2022

One of my longtime “put on and dance around while doing cooking” faves.

That became this for my father and our neighbor across the street, thanks to a very very eventful evening:

We'd gotten the soundtrack for Dad for his birthday that year (it was 1986, I think?) and a few weeks later both our family and our neighbors were at the same open-house Christmas party. Both our families were departing at the same time, and as we were leaving each one of us got invited over to our neighbors' - me to hang with their daughter, my brother with their son, and my parents to join their dad, who was going to embark on some pierogi-making. "Okay, we'll all get changed and we'll be over in about 20 minutes," we said. And as we each head over, my father brought the Stop Making Sense soundtrack, to have a listen on our neighbors' far-superior stereo.

....One hour later: both the boys were downstairs in the basement playing video games. My friend had locked herself in her room, because Stop Making Sense was playing loud enough that you could hear it from the street. And I was sitting in the living room, watching in fascination as my parents and the neighbor dad were dancing wildly in the kitchen, bellowing "Girlfriend is Better" at the top of their lungs, swigging Krupnik (an extremely potent Polish honey liqueur) direct from the bottle and flinging pierogis across the kitchen into a boiling pot of water six feet away.

The pierogi-making got relegated to being an Easter tradition, but the krupnik and Stop Making Sense remained key components. The neighbor dad eventually ran for public office, and it amuses me to no end that if I wanted to, I could have killed his political career simply by running a video of him lip-syncing "Swamp" into a rolling pin while wearing an apron with a W.C. Fields quote on it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:02 AM on November 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

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