Stop Making Sense – Blu-Ray Re-Release Review

This concert film, capturing the Talking Heads over several performances in December of 1983, has grown in stature considerably over the years, to the point where it can now be called the most famous concert film ever produced.

80The Film

The film itself, directed by former exploitationist and later arthouse darling Jonathan Demme, is well-known for several sequences: David Byrne performing “Psycho Killer” solo to a cassette player’s accompaniment; David Byrne dancing with a lamp during “This Must Be The Place”; David Byrne wearing the giant suit. While the other band members – keyboardist Jerry Harrison, bassist Tina Weymouth, and drummer Chris Frantz – come across on stage a little shy, Byrne barks like a madman, doing some sort of jerky, spastic, regimented descendent of the black funk Talking Heads owe so much to. Even the black musicians who come on stage midway through – including P-Funk genius Bernie Worrell – are eclipsed by Byrne’s bizarre charisma.

Demme’s direction was, in its own time, just as innovative, with its stark lighting and colours, long takes of performers, and lack of crowd shots. Watching this direction today, it isn’t as obviously avant-garde as are the music or the performances; nevertheless, the film is still bold, sometimes funny, and always thrilling.

Audio and Visuals

The mix used here has been remastered, re-remastered, and re-remastered again, though several audio tracks are available for selection when you watch the film. Whichever you choose, it sounds so fantastic it’s hard to believe the show was recorded live, with instruments precisely picked out, vocals easily audible, and nothing lost or buried. The crowd are almost never audible, just as they are almost never visible. The lighting used in the film was intentionally untraditional, which can at times mean performers aren’t as illuminated as we would perhaps like, but it also gives the film its look and its feel.


Presentation

The box features the same poster used to promote the film during its original ’84 release. The menu features Byrne’s tapping foot and the famous “Psycho Killer” drum machine loop – it’s incredibly cool.

Extras

There is a commentary by Demme and the band, surprisingly dull considering the artsy/weird/thoughtful credentials of all five individuals. Too often, the commentary devolves into simply narrating what’s on-screen – there’s a moment when Heads side project Tom Tom Club are performing “Genius of Love”, we get to the lyric “Stepping in rhythm to Kurtis Blow”. “We were listening to Kurtis Blow”, says Tina. You don’t say?

Aside from the commentary, there are two cut songs, “Cities” and “Big Business/I Zimbra”; a short and slightly silly “Self Interview” in which Byrne interviews himself as parodies of several TV personalities; a “Montage”, which is just a short series of clips from the film – who needs it when you have the whole thing?; a storyboard; and, finally, an hour-long press conference from 1999.

Overall

Whether you’re a Talking Heads fan or not, this is a thrilling, deeply fascinating film that now not only looks and sounds better than ever, but is presented highly attractively.


Stop Making Sense receives its re-release on DVD & Blu-ray today (16th November) in a definitive, restored edition by Second Sight! Will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!

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2 comments

  1. Oh this is such a great concert DVD. Top of the pile in my book and I never even really got into Talking Heads that much! I credit this performance for me knowing any of their songs at all. I have a theory David Byrne was out of his mind on coke during this performance. There are some parts of it where that’s the only logical explanation as to what’s happening lol

    1. I just assumed he was out of his mind on being David Byrne.

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