Stop Making Sense is a testimony to the bizarre brilliance of David Byrne, who proves himself to be not only an inspired composer of manic/melodic New Wave pop, but also an inventive installation artist and alarming stage presence. Filmed by director Jonathan Demme over the course of three Talking Heads performances at Los Angeles’ Pantages Theater, this concert documentary reverberates with Byrne’s strange, inner rhythm, whether he’s running laps around the stage, convulsing uncontrollably, gleefully dancing with a floor lamp, or inexplicably appearing in a stiff, oversized suit.
This is not to downplay the eight others who join him—eventually, after a prolonged intro in which one band member enters the stage at a time. Whether it’s Tina Weymouth romping on the bass, Chris Frantz driving things from his drum kit, or backup singers/dancers Edna Holt and Lynn Mabry having their own party on the side of the stage, the concert becomes a communal affair, a group of talented musicians orbiting Byrne’s strange, pulsating star.
And that’s why Demme was the perfect choice to chronicle these performances, given as he is to linger over individual performers. Still, he always returns to Byrne. Byrne is the auteur here; Demme is the rare, generous sort of filmmaker who would emphasize that. Stop Making Sense proves that while a strong pair of directorial hands can be a good thing, not getting in the way requires a certain artfulness, as well.