Byrnin' down the house
Stop Making Sense: Re-release
Review by Ross Anthony

A straight-lipped, ball-eyed David Byrne sets a tiny boom box on a bare stage. The box clicks out a tragically unhip, retro drum-machine beat to which he strums "Psycho Killer" solo on the acoustic guitar. A perfectly quirky intro to Byrne's punk-paranoia, funk-roasted musical spazzfest. Bass player Tina Weymouth joins him in "Heaven" (the next tune); each song thereafter adding a new Talking Head player to the stage until the modest Pantages Theater is rocking side to side with the sweat and swing of all nine musicians.

Completely void of the now standard, blaringly quick, MTV camera cuts, this particular concert flick allows you time to enjoy the band members sautéing in their own emotions. What a refreshing way to view music. During "That's the Way it Goes" all camera angles are kept above the waist; allowing only "Head Shots" -- the musicians' eyes say it all. Byrne and the band are so deliciously entertaining to watch that there's no need for digital special effects, wipes, fades, millisecond cuts, guitar string close-ups, or crowd shots. Much well-earned praise has been given to director Jonathan Demme for this 1984 gem, but David Byrne gave the man mountains of visual sweetmeats to dolly around.

When I saw the original release, I wasn't ready for Byrne's wiggly nervous vocals. Now, from a 1999 perspective, I greatly appreciate his bold electrically eccentric self-expression. It emanates from his eyes, voice, guitar and boils over into his convulsing body. (The big suit can't even contain it.) His ironic paranoid demeanor is a front for his magnetic confidence. Byrne's oddity is set in perfect contrast to solid punk-funk-rock and roll. (Perhaps he was exactly 15 years ahead of his time.)

Though a surprising amount of the film is shot in soft focus (a euphemism for "not really in focus"): a decade and a half later, the music and brash presence of creative genius still byrne down the house.

Stop Making Sense: Re-release. Copyright © 1999. 88 minutes. Not rated.
Starring The Talking Heads: David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth, Edna Holt, Lynn Mabry, Steven Scales, Alex Weir, Bernie Worrell.
Directed by Jonathan Demme.
Produced by Gary Goetzman and presented by Palm.


Copyright © 1999 Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:54:30 PDT