The Talking Heads’ 1984 concert film, Stop Making Sense, has been remastered for IMAX theaters ahead of next year’s 40th anniversary.
I had never heard of Talking Heads until David Byrne’s American Utopia premiered at TIFF in 2020. Watching the film last week in IMAX marked my first experience of listening to the new wave band’s music, let alone the documentary. When it comes to music, I’m more of a 1960s-1970s rock and roll/classic rock type of person. Anyway, the film was quite the experience, no doubt about it. It was a global world premiere in the sense that the Q&A was simulcast after the screening. The IMAX screening started on time while TIFF audiences had to sit through the sponsor videos and introductions. The Q&A marked their first appearance together since their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2002.
David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison were accompanied by others at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre back in December 1983. Byrne first appears, wanting to play a tape, and the others soon join. Jonathan Demme was on hand to direct them over the course of a few concerts. Jordan Cronenweth handles cinematography while six other camera operators are on the stage. Filming a concert is not an easy feat, let alone editing one. I cannot even imagine what it was like for Lisa Day in editing the film. Mind you, this was before the rise of digital editing software! One of the riskiest choices on Demme’s part is the initial decision to not show the audience. Obviously, we finally see them towards the end. Leaving out interviews is fine–if I’m watching a concert film, I’m going to watch it for the music!
They could have kept Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” out of the film but would then have to explain why David Byne is wearing a “Big Suit.” Including it was a smart decision from an editing standpoint. Otherwise, you’re left asking questions about wardrobe. It would just be a distraction to leave it out of the film.
The 88-minute run time is very surprising! People already familiar with the band and film know what they’re getting when they see it. Those of us seeing it for the first time and knowing absolutely nothing going in are just hoping–at the very least–that the music is good. I wasn’t expecting David Byrne to be wearing a “Big Suit” during the movie. Nor was I expecting him to be dancing with a lamp. I am honestly surprised that neither item are on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland!
American Zoetrope’s James Mockoski supervised the 4K restoration–the first restoration since 1999. He was initially going to use Demme’s interpositive from 1999 but called MGM and learned they have had the negative since 1992. Jerry Harrison oversaw remastering of the soundtrack. Jeff Cronenweth also provided input on the film. Let me tell you, it looked amazing in IMAX from where I was sitting along the aisle in Row I.
Stop Making Sense continues to stand the test of time and is acknowledged as one of the best concert films ever made.
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Demme
CONCEIVED FOR THE STAGE BY: David Byrne
FEATURING: David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Steve Scales, Lynn Mabry, Ednah Holt, Alex Weir, Bernie Worrell