Sat. Sep 23rd, 2023

The word that best described the “Stop Making Sense” event came from the Talking Heads themselves in a live Q&A: “Love.” There’s the love between the musicians on stage in the best concert film ever made. There’s the love between the filmmaker Jonathan Demme and the brilliant way he captured lightning in a bottle. There’s the love in the room four decades later as people clapped, sang, and danced along to the new IMAX restoration. When “Burning Down the House” started and David Byrne joined the dancing crowd, the event took on a surreal, religious quality. Here was one of the best musicians of all time with his bandmates, dancing and clapping to the younger versions of themselves. It was art, passion, and personality traveling through history. 

The most important thing to report is that the IMAX 4K restoration of “Stop Making Sense” is breathtaking, not just for its visual clarity but its stunning new multi-channel audio mix. As Jerry Harrison pointed out, you can just let the music wash over you, but you can also listen carefully and pick out instruments or singers in ways you couldn’t before. I know this movie by heart, and it sounds new this time. At times, I would close my eyes and let the sound wash over me.

As for the movie itself, it’s one of those classics that’s better every time I see it. Yes, a lot of credit goes to The Talking Heads and the brilliant stage show they assembled, which basically puts itself together as you watch it. Of course, they were also just at the top of their musical powers at this point in their careers. The actual performance remains breathtaking, a phenomenal example of collaboration. Byrne pointed out in the Q&A (moderated by Spike Lee) that Demme saw each person on stage as a member of the ensemble, which is why his camera gives them each time in the spotlight. He treated this performance not just like a filmed concert but almost like he would a narrative film. And the editing by Lisa Day is some of the best ever. The way she moves from player to player and holds a certain shot, or cuts at just the right time—it gives me the chills every time. It’s not just as a piece of musical brilliance, but of filmmaking, too. 

Naturally, it was a very big deal for fans of The Talking Heads to see them in the same space for the first time in decades. They are notoriously not fans of each other—well, pretty much David vs. the other three—and one could sense a bit of chilliness from Tina Weymouth. But even she was informative (she never turned her amp up over three so as not to drown out with bass) and receptive. Most of all, there was a sense in this theater that “Stop Making Sense” is more than just a concert film. It’s special. It’s love.

By Dave Jenks

Dave Jenks is an American novelist and Veteran of the United States Marine Corps. Between those careers, he’s worked as a deckhand, commercial fisherman, divemaster, taxi driver, construction manager, and over the road truck driver, among many other things. He now lives on a sea island, in the South Carolina Lowcountry, with his wife and youngest daughter. They also have three grown children, five grand children, three dogs and a whole flock of parakeets. Stinnett grew up in Melbourne, Florida and has also lived in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and Cozumel, Mexico. His next dream is to one day visit and dive Cuba.