The Origin Story of “Stop Making Sense”

When it first opened in theaters in the fall of 1984, “Stop Making Sense,” directed by Jonathan Demme and starring the rock group Talking Heads, was quickly recognized as one of the finest concert films ever made. Reviewer after reviewer settled on the word “exhilarating” to describe the experience of watching an expanded nine-member iteration of the four-piece group perform sixteen of their best-known songs in an uninterrupted sequence of dynamically staged and photographed musical vignettes.

In the pages of this magazine, Pauline Kael praised the film as “close to perfection,” and described the Heads frontman, David Byrne, as “a stupefying performer.” “He’s so white he’s almost mock-white,” Kael wrote, “and so are his jerky, long-necked, mechanical-man movements. He seems fleshless, bloodless; he might almost be a Black man’s parody of how a clean-cut white man moves. But Byrne himself is the parodist, and he commands the stage by his hollow-eyed, frosty verve.” Similarly, effusive sentiments were echoed by critics across the country. If such a thing as Rotten Tomatoes had existed at the time, “Stop Making Sense” would surely have ranked in the high nineties… read more >

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