Stop Making Sense (1984)

March 23, 2016 · Tennessee Theatre · 11:15 P.M.

Winner of the National Society of Film Critics award for Best Documentary.

“Redefines how we look at musical performance.”–Keith Uhlich, Senses of Cinema

“The overwhelming impression throughout Stop Making Sense is of enormous energy, of life being lived at a joyous high.”–Roger Ebert

“We didn’t want any of the bullshit. . . . We didn’t want the clichés. We didn’t want close-ups of people’s fingers while they’re doing a guitar solo. We wanted the camera to linger, so you could get to know the musicians a little bit.”–Chris Frantz, Talking Heads

What new can be said, today, about the film that many critics have called one of, if not the, greatest concert film ever made?

Over the course of three nights in December 1983, Jonathan Demme led a film crew in capturing Talking Heads. Byrne’s solo rendition of “Psycho Killer” sets the stage, literally. Then band members Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, and Jerry Harrison gradually join him on stage, one song at a time. By the time we hit “Burning Down the House” the Heads are joined by five more phenomenal musicians (including P-Funk vet Bernie Worrell). In all, the band burns through sixteen classics. Through it all, Demme strips away the artifice, even as Byrne dons an oversized suit for the climax of “Girlfriend is Better.”

Prepped and produced while Demme was battling by day with Goldie Hawn over the direction of Swing Shift, his compromised Warner Brothers feature, Stop Making Sense marks the first of Demme’s performance films. A document of pure energy, it is essential viewing. We are pleased to screen a recent restoration of this landmark film in the Tennessee Theatre.

Stop Making Sense screened as part of our 11-film Jonathan Demme retrospective, Life is Performance / Performance is Life, at Big Ears.