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Quick-Thoughts: Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense (1984)

You know, the only “REAL” flaw with this documentary is that they didn’t include a live performance of Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)—the greatest Talking Heads song, in my humble opinion. 

By the conclusion of your viewing of Stop Making Sense, it should, with just the speed of a lightning bolt, become common knowledge to you that Talking Heads are likely known for their incredible live performances. Here, the heavily influential band manages to not only make a majority of their album Speaking In Tongues sound a kajillion times better than the studio recording of it with their viciously charismatic and committed “during-the-moment” stagings, but they also bring unique light into their past work while even covering the super-classic Genius of Love from their side project Tom Tom Club!

Yet, this isn’t even the center scratch of what makes Stop Making Sense a timeless triumph. What Jonathan Demme has done here is a near miracle; with a collage of diverse shots and a mindful hand at the editing chair, this musical documentary feels as if it was concocted strictly for the screen—and, yet, it’s not! It’s boggling to think that something more than three decades old has the raw ability to make Disney’s taped version of Hamilton look like child’s play! In almost every proceeding song that’s featured on the Stop Making Sense setlist, there’s something new to look forward to in terms of how the crew handles the creative displaying of the band’s show. There’s a rich catalog of stage designs, theatrical compositions, and moving performance attributes that hoist Stop Making Sense far and beyond even some of the best live recordings out there. 

Whether shadows or colors are being brilliantly contrasted upon performers, or the stage is seamlessly midway-moving during a sing-a-long, or even when the band is acting-out on stage like sheer, dance-a-holic lunatics, Stop Making Sense seems to exist persuasively among our lives as an almost psychedelically hypnotic trance of emotionally aware music and cinematic intricacies. Thank you, Jonathan Demme, David Byrne, and company for advancing what were already pretty epic musical patches.

Verdict: A

The Amateur’s Favorite Documentaries (Ranked List)

“Stop Making Sense” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime and The Criterion Channel.

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