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Friday, April 08, 2005  

Speaking in Tongues
Jules and I got the chance to see “Stop Making Sense,” the brilliant Talking Heads concert film, at the Arclight last night. The film, directed by Jonathan Demme, is considered by many critics and cineastes to be the pinnacle of the concert-on-film genre and seeing a 35mm print projected on the big screen backed up by the Arclight’s excessive sound system was mind blowing. I don’t think I’d ever seen a concert film in a theater before and it greatly adds to the experience. The audience in the theater would yell and clap along with the crowd on-screen making the show fell almost like a concert. The ageing print was even able to reveal more detail than I had previously seen in even the DVD version of the film which highlighted the brilliant direction and set-up of the film.

The film really is deserving of its place as one of the great concert films. It was, as the opening credits inform us, “conceived for the stage by David Byrne” and it is obvious his virtuosity extends past music. The show begins with Byrne alone on stage strumming “Psycho Killer” on an acoustic guitar and backed up by only a boom-box on a well-lit and bare stage. Each of the next 4 song adds an additional musicians and instruments until the full band is assembled for a inspiring rendition of Burning Down the House. The energy level never dips for the next 10 songs as the band cooks their blend of polyrhythmic-synch-funk at the height of their power.

And all the while Demme’s army of cinema-verite cameramen drift around the stage capturing the little looks and dances and stomps and nods of the band in full swing and painting each musician as a character and not just “the keyboardist” or “the dude with the bongos. It is really the camera work that is my favorite part of the show; each song is shot slightly differently keeping the whole show fresh, though still a cohesive whole. There are no flashy swooping shots, no gimmicky cuts or dissolves, just straight-forward and solid filmmaking. Music video producers of today would do well to take the lessons of this film to heart. Even if you are just a casual fan of The Talking Heads move this movie to the top of your Queue and bask in the brilliance of David Byrne and his big-suit.

posted by JMV | 4/08/2005 09:10:00 AM
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