Monday, March 23, 2009

Stop Making Sense (1984)

Directed by Jonathan Demme. Not that it's saying much but this might be the best concert movie. I was reminded to see it again after an email from Professor Lizie pointed out that the big suit is not as big as he remembered. He's right. But the suit is a cultural icon, a visual that made music fans better understand the blurry line between musical performance and the movie experience.

In this film, Talking Heads perform. That's really about it; there are no interviews, narration or crazy backstage footage, but if you like music, it's enough to make for a thoroughly engaging movie. I like that the shots here are patient. Even since this film was made, the number-one strategy for making concert footage not boring is cutting it so that no shot lasts more than a second. This does not make things interesting -- just exhausting.

While most directors of concert films will tell you that their goal was to "capture the excitement of the live performance" the reason this film isn't boring is because that doesn't seem to have been the goal at all. Rather, this was made to be a good movie, and it was helped along drastically by the fact that the concert it shows was produced for especially for the film. There is attention to the pace at which the band members are introduced (characters), the pacing of the set (plot) and the look of the stage (theme). It works in three acts. And it's full of good ideas, like the big suit.

Yet critical, naturally, is that this is the Talking Heads at the top of their game. They never sounded better than this and never cranked out better songs than the ones here. Every great band should wish they had a time capsule like this.

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